Bees have emotions: Good food puts them in a good mood

Researcher Lars Chittka says the findings are a reminder that scientists "should respect their needs when testing them in experiments, and do more for their conservation."
By Brooks Hays  |  Sept. 29, 2016 at 4:41 PM
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LONDON, Sept. 29 (UPI) -- New research suggests certain bee behaviors meet the criteria for emotional states. In a recent study, biologists at Queen Mary University of London found bees exhibited signs of a positive emotional state after drinking an especially sweet droplet of sugar water.

The new findings open the door for further exploration into the expression of emotions through relatively simple nervous systems.

"Investigating and understanding the basic features of emotion states will help us determine the brain mechanisms underlying emotion across all animals," lead researcher Clint J. Perry said in a news release.

Through a series of tests, researchers trained bees to recognize blue flowers as being a source of food and green flowers as being devoid of nectar. Researchers then introduced the trained bees to a new blue-green flower. Bees that had tasted the sugar water prior to the test were less hesitant to land on the foreign flower.

Prior tests prove excitement nor accelerated foraging behavior explain the bees' willingness to quickly land on the blue-green flower.

"The finding that bees exhibit not just surprising levels of intelligence, but also emotion-like states, indicates that we should respect their needs when testing them in experiments, and do more for their conservation," Lars Chittka said.

In another experiment, researchers simulated a spider attack. Test bees who had just had some sugar water were quicker to resume foraging in the wake of the spider scare.

"Sweet food can improve negative moods in human adults and reduce crying of new-borns in response to negative events," said Luigi Baciadonna, a PhD candidate at QMUL. "Our results suggest that similar cognitive responses are occurring in bees."

The new research was published this week in the journal Science.

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