Bees are known for their complex hive building and delicious honey-making skills, but is everything they do strictly for survival or are there less-robotic aspects to these tiny, but fascinating creatures?
Research published in the journal Animal Behaviour would suggest that bees can enjoy rolling wooden balls just for the fun of it - with no other reward. In the study, the younger ones appeared to have the most fun too!
It's not that surprising given bees' intricate social system and superhero-like capabilities for their size. Indeed, bees are anything but boring. At least not for us to observe. But studies like that truly highlight why bees deserve more attention and care and show us that there's a lot more to bees than first meets the eye.
While obviously this play-like behavior would not be found naturally within a hive, there are plenty of interesting things to watch bees do in nature if you ever have the chance to observe them. Here are five of our favorites.
1) Bees can make art - While what we call art is subjective, it's undeniable that bees are unpredictable sometimes and when given the opportunity, they will create unique and unusual structures. Bees are innovative and can build their honeycomb on a variety of substrates.
2) Bees can hold hands (or technically feet) - Bees officially have three pairs of segmented legs (six total) and will often form chains or bridges together by joining their feet together in a row. This behavior is called festooning and while we have some educated guesses on why they might do this to measure or assist in honeycomb building, it is not required. The full explanation for this behavior remains a mystery and your guess might be as good as any.
3) Bees can learn new tricks - In another study in Science Magazine, bees were observed teaching each other how to move a ball to a target in order to receive a sugary reward. Even more interestingly, the student bees in the study improved upon what they learned by figuring out a more efficient way to move the ball. Again you won't find any balls in a hive, but this ability to learn is evident in nature as well just in the mere survival of the hive. There are many different jobs to do in a hive. When bees get tired, injured or old, new bees must take over to keep the hive thriving.
4) Bees will help each other out - Teamwork is a big part of survival in the hive and every bee has a specific job. But what is a bee to do if she accidentally falls into honey? She can ask a fellow bee for help and she'll receive a personalized grooming! In fact, bees have a complex communication system that is mostly made of dances. Which brings us to number five.
5) Bees can dance - Maybe not to a beat, but bees can certainly move their bodies in interesting ways and they do this primarily as a way of communicating. As humans, we have even deciphered the meaning of several bee dances. Click here for more on bee dances.
We offer a beekeeping tour at our bee farm on the Big Island where you can have an up-close look at the inside of a live beehive. If you plan to visit the Big Island, be sure to reserve a spot on the tour or stop in to view our museum and try our raw honey.