Sickly saccharine bees – A christmas special

Due to the holiday spirit of vindictiveness, I simply cannot let James have the last post of the year. This week I too am settling on a Christmas theme: cloying sweetness. This month a class of 8-10 year olds published a paper in the peer-reviewed journal Biology Letters (Free article HERE). The students investigated how bees can recognise not only colours, but patterns of colours through an elegant series of experiments.

What’s most interesting is the way the article is written: it is purely kid-speak. The article starts off : “Once upon a time… People think that humans are the smartest of animals, and most people do not think about other animals as being smart, or at least think that they are not as smart as humans. Knowing that other animals are as smart as us means we can appreciate them more, which could also help us to help them.” The kids also drew their own diagrams, complete with colour pencil.

Figure 1c of the paper "A table showing the preferences of each bee" (From

The cuteness continues with a discussion starting with “This experiment is important, because, as far as we know, no one in history (including adults) has done this experiment before. It tells us that bees can learn to solve puzzles (and if we are lucky we will be able to get them to do Sudoku in a couple of years’ time).”

What this article really emphasises for me is that 1) anyone can do science, it’s not limited to “professional” scientists and 2) science, underneath the opaque lacquer of jargon, is just about observing the world under known conditions and interpreting the results. And with that I end the year. See you in the next one.

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Blackawton, P., Airzee, S., Allen, A., Baker, S., Berrow, A., Blair, C., Churchill, M., Coles, J., Cumming, R., Fraquelli, L., Hackford, C., Hinton Mellor, A., Hutchcroft, M., Ireland, B., Jewsbury, D., Littlejohns, A., Littlejohns, G., Lotto, M., McKeown, J., O’Toole, A., Richards, H., Robbins-Davey, L., Roblyn, S., Rodwell-Lynn, H., Schenck, D., Springer, J., Wishy, A., Rodwell-Lynn, T., Strudwick, D., & Lotto, R. (2010). Blackawton bees Biology Letters DOI: 10.1098/rsbl.2010.1056



Filed under Thomas' Corner

4 responses to “Sickly saccharine bees – A christmas special

  1. It’s a great paper isn’t it. Damn meddling kids though.

  2. I agree about the point of there being just the need to observe intimately to be able to do good science… It is indeed elegant.

    And oh, love “…no one in history (including adults)”!

  3. Commander Espresso

    Aren’t there still a few more days left of this year? Did you consider posting this later?

    Also, I love the new banner!

    • Cheers, Dr. Skeptic.

      And Commander, sorry to change it on you as you were loving the new banner. Hopefully you will agree that Quincy’s presence is also welcome.


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