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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Learning of Abstract Concepts and Rules by the Honeybee


Despite the tiny brain of the honeybee, some remarkable higher cognitive functions have emerged from this assembly of about one million neurons. Work on the honeybee over the past decade is beginning to suggest that insects may not be the simple, reflexive creatures that they were once believed to be. Bees display perceptual and “cognitive” capacities that are surprisingly rich, complex and flexible. This article reviews the recent progress on the honeybee’s ability to learn and use abstract rules and concepts, to categorize visual objects in various ways, and to memorize task-specific information while navigating through their environment. This review is not intended to be exhaustive. Rather, it highlights important advances in our understanding of the processes underlying the bee’s remarkable behaviors.

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