Sunday, 8 June 2014

Amazing Design Feature in Bees: They Might Build a Mental Map, Researchers Suggest

Researchers “have long marvelled at the complex navigation abilities of bees”. Image courtesy of Wikipedia.

Joel Kontinen

Bees have tiny brains but when it comes to finding places, they are amazingly clever. According to Nature news, “Researchers have long marveled at the complex navigation abilities of bees.”

Now, it seems that they have even more cause for marvelling:

Bees, like birds and butterflies, use the Sun as a compass for navigation, whereas mammals typically find their way by remembering familiar landmarks on a continuous mental map. However, the latest research suggests that bees also use this type of map, despite their much smaller brain size. The work adds a new dimension to complex bee-navigation abilities that have long captivated researchers.”

They believe that bees actually build a cognitive map that helps them to navigate:

’The surprise comes for many people that such a tiny little brain is able to form such a rich memory described as a cognitive map,’ says co-author Randolf Menzel, a neurobiologist at the Free University of Berlin."

Menzel and his colleagues published their research in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. They found out that bees “can find their way back to their hives without relying solely on the Sun. Instead, they seem to use a 'cognitive map' that is made up of memorized landscape snapshots that direct them home.”

The bees’ ability speaks of extremely clever design – something that blind Darwinian processes cannot bring about. However, there is a book called Genesis that describes the creative prowess of the One who made the heaven and earth and everything in them.


Morrison, Jessica. 2014. Bees build mental maps to get home. Nature news (2 June).