Lars Chittka - Author of "The Mind of a Bee” - Founder, Research Centre for Psychology, QMUL

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Lars Chittka is professor of sensory and behavioral ecology at Queen Mary University of London, where he founded a new Research Centre for Psychology in 2008 and was its scientific director until 2012. He is the author of The Mind of a Bee and is the coeditor of Cognitive Ecology of Pollination. He studied Biology in Berlin and completed his PhD studies under the supervision of Randolf Menzel in 1993. He has carried out extensive work on the behaviour, cognition and ecology of bumble bees and honey bees, and their interactions with flowers. His discoveries have made a substantial impact on the understanding of animal intelligence and its neural-computational underpinnings. He has published over 250 peer-reviewed articles, and has been an editor of biology’s foremost open access journal PLoS Biology since 2004. He is an elected Member of the German National Academy of Sciences (Leopoldina), a Fellow of the Linnean Society and Royal Entomological Society, as well as the Royal Society of Biology.

"Most bees are quite short-lived, not all bees. So queen bees can live for many years, up to seven years, and some stingless bees, the queens can even live much longer than that, but their lives are less exciting in a sense that they are, most of their lives, cave animals, where most of what they do is egg laying.

So when we're talking about intelligence tests and bees, these are mostly done with the worker bees, and they only live for a few weeks. And it might be surprising to many people that an animal this short-lived can learn anything at all because, of course, in humans, the process of acquiring crucial life skills takes much longer, many years typically. So when a bee first emerges from the pupa - bees spend their first few days as little grubs inside a wax pot. And this larval stage, of course, there isn't much learning going on. They have a very pampered and easy life in that they are basically immersed in the food that they're required to grow. And then they pupate and turn from what are formerly little helpless grubs into adult bees.

Once the bee emerges from the pupa, they have a number of different tasks waiting for them, which in honey bees a fairly defined sequence where the bee might in her first few days simply be involved in the many duties inside the hive – to clean cells, to build wax comb, to feed the larva – and then to transition to their life as a forager.”

Photo credit: Markus Scholz / Leopoldina

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