If math is the language of the universe, bees may have just uttered their first words. New research suggests these busybodies of the insect world are capable of addition and subtraction—using colors in the place of plus and minus symbols.
In the animal kingdom, the ability to count—or at least distinguish between differing quantities—isn’t unusual: It has been seen in frogs, spiders, and even fish. But solving equations using symbols is rare air, so far only achieved by famously brainy animals such as chimpanzees and African grey parrots.
Enter the honey bee (Apis mellifera). Building on prior research that says the social insects can count to four and understand the concept of zero, researchers wanted to test the limits of what their tiny brains can do.