An international team of researchers found that the size of a bee’s brain depends on what it eats, according to Phys.org. In their article, published in the journal Proceedings of the Royal Society B, the scientists describe their research on the bee brain and what they have learned about it.
Panurgus Banksianus is a large furry bee that lives alone, burrowing in sandy meadows throughout Europe. Prefers to eat yellow-flowered representatives of the Aster family. A large shaggy bee has a very large brain. And a new study explains how it relates to her diet.
Compared to mammalian brains, the scientists note, insect brains have received little attention from scientists and little is known about it. In this new study, the researchers sought to fill in the part that gap by studying the brains of 395 bees, the brains of 93 species found in Spain, the United States, and the Netherlands. Their job was to extract the brain from each specimen and compare its size with other bees, then looking for ways to explain the differences.
Researchers have found some patterns. For example, the length of a bee’s generation can correlate with the size of the bee’s brain. Scientists point out that this is not surprising, because the same can be said for birds and many other animals. What really surprised them was the link between diet and brain size. Bees with less dietary diversity had larger brains than bees with varied diets. In most animals, the opposite is true. The researchers speculate that this could be due to the fact that it would not take a lot of brain energy to eat a flower in the field – identifying specific flowers would require much more processing.
The researchers also compared brain size to social behavior and found little difference between the bees. The brains of single bees were no larger or smaller than those of bees living in complex hives. The researchers note that this was also expected. Unlike most animals, the social behavior of bees is mostly fixed. Bees communicate only in the hive, where they carry out their duties, for example, tending young or collecting pollen.
The researchers were unable to establish whether bees with larger brains were smarter than bees with smaller brains; the differences in size seem to be mainly related to the activities that the bees engage in during their life cycle.