An incredible experience that shows that drones “play” with things

The first study showed that bees are “players”. The experiment, in which bees rolled wooden balls, was the first time the behavior of playing with objects had been shown in an insect.

Bumblebees play, according to a new study published in the journal animal behavior. This is the first time the behavior of playing with objects has been shown in an insect, adding to the evidence that bees can experience positive “emotions”.

Several experiments were conducted by a team of researchers, led by scientists from Queen Mary University of London, to test their hypothesis. They showed that bumblebees had difficulty rolling wooden balls over and over again, despite no apparent prompting to do so.

According to the results, young bees roll more balls than older ones. These results reflect the human behavior of young children and other young mammals and birds being the most playful. Additionally, male bees rolled balls longer than females.

Forty-five bees were followed in the study as they passed through an arena. They had the option of walking along a clear path to reach the feeding area or deviating from that path to areas with wood balls. Individual bees spun the balls impressively between 1 and 117 times during the experiment. Repetitive behavior indicates that rolling the ball was rewarding.

This was supported by another experiment in which a different group of 42 bees were given access to two colored chambers. One room still contains moving balls, while the other room contains no objects. When tested later and given the option of choosing between the two chambers, as neither had balls at the time, the bees showed a preference for the color of the chamber previously associated with the wooden balls. The setup of the experiments removed any idea that the bees were moving the balls for purposes other than play. The rolling balls did not contribute to survival strategies such as foraging, organizing, or mating, and this was done in stress-free conditions.

The study builds on previous work from the same Queen Mary lab that showed drones can be trained to score goals by rolling goal balls in exchange for a sweet food reward. During the previous experiment, the team noticed that the drones were rolling balls out of the experiment, without receiving any food rewards. The new research showed that bees repeatedly rolled balls untrained and without food to do so – it was voluntary and spontaneous – and therefore similar to play behavior seen in other animals.

Samadi Galpayage, first author of the study and a PhD student at Queen Mary University of London, said: “It is certainly amazing, sometimes even amusing, to see bumblebees displaying something like toys. They approach and handle these “toys” again and again. Once again. Show it, once and for all. Another, that despite their small brain size, they are more than just little robotic beings. They can indeed experience a kind of positive emotional state, even if it is primitive, like other tall thin or not very thin animals. These kinds of findings have implications for our understanding of insect consciousness and well-being, which we hope will encourage us to respect and protect life on Earth more than ever before.

Professor Lars Chitka, Professor of Sensory and Behavioral Ecology at Queen Mary University of London, Director of the Laboratory and author of the recent book The Bee Brain, said: ‘This research provides strong evidence that insect brains are much more sophisticated than us. could imagine. imagine, there are plenty of animals that just play for fun, but most examples are from small mammals and birds.

“We are producing ever-increasing amounts of evidence that supports the need to do everything we can to protect insects millions of miles away from the careless, emotionless creatures traditionally thought of as such.”

Reference: “Do drones play?” By Heroni Samadi Galbage Donna, Quinn Solvey, Amelia Kowaluska, Carly McKella, Hadi Mabodi and Lars Schitka, October 19, 2022, animal behavior.
DOI: 10.1016/j.anbehav.2022.08.013

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