Home Science news Bumblebees can fly sideways to fit through tight gaps

Bumblebees can fly sideways to fit through tight gaps

The buff-tailed bumblebee (Bombus terrestris)

Frank Bienewald/Alamy

Bumblebees change their flight patterns in another way after they have to go through a tight house primarily based on their dimension, indicating that they’ve some concept of their very own dimension and form regardless of their easy nervous techniques.

To take a look at whether or not bees are conscious of their dimension, Sridhar Ravi on the University of New South Wales in Sydney and his colleagues linked 4 hives to tunnels through which buff-tailed bumblebees (Bombus terrestris) had to fly so as to attain meals. They then positioned a wall in the course of the tunnel, partially blocking it off however leaving a niche for the bees to slip through.

As the bees flew up to the wall, they flitted backwards and forwards to get a greater have a look at the hole after which tilted themselves over to get through with out smashing their wings into the wall. The researchers noticed 400 flights by the bees and located the quantity that they tilted trusted the relative sizes of the hole and the bees – giant bees going through small gaps even flew through on their sides.


“It’s not that they have a sense of self or would recognise themselves in the mirror, but they do seem to have a better sense of their own size and shape than we thought,” says Stacey Combes on the University of California, Davis.

This is analogous to how folks and animals with extra advanced brains understand the world, says William Warren at Brown University in Rhode Island. “When you look at a gap you need to walk through, you calibrate that information to your own body size. This emphasises that there’s a kind of universality in how we perceive the world, from insects to humans.”

It might appear to be a no brainer, however that is truly a surprisingly complex calculation for a simple animal to be able to, says Combes. “Kids are sometimes scared to be in the bathtub when you open up the drain because they’re scared to go down the drain,” she says. “If human toddlers don’t have that understanding of how big they are compared to the world around them, it’s surprising that bees do.”

Journal reference: PNAS, DOI: 10.1073/pnas.2016872117

Article amended on
24 November 2020

We have corrected the species of bee within the headline

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