Closed for June II – Brainy Bumble Bees

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Howdy, BugFans,

The BugLady is out hunting for insects and will be back in July. Here’s something to keep you out of trouble in the meantime.

It’s a little-known fact that the BugLady briefly minored in Ethology (Animal Behavior) in grad school. The field of Ethology is a relatively young one – Charles Darwin is considered by some to be the first modern ethologist, and its status as a science was solidified in the 1920’s because of the elegant studies done by Lorenz and Tinbergen. Ethology’s early bias was that all animal behavior was hard-wired – instinctive – and anyone who claimed that there was any kind of cognitive element in animal behavior was labeled “Anthropomorphic” and drummed out of the lodge.

Bee on a leaf.

In recent decades, as experiments have suggested that some animals have the ability to assess situations and behave accordingly – to “problem-solve” – the lines have gotten a little fuzzy. Eugene Linden’s book The Parrot’s Lament (2000) showcases anecdotes of a bunch of vertebrates (and an octopus – never underestimate an octopus) behaving, well, intelligently (and the incident that prompted the book’s title is mind-boggling).

Bee on a flower.

Research has also extended into the Class Insecta. Here are two articles about bees’ mental landscapes and their ability to learn: Smithsonian and The Guardian.

Go outside – look at Bugs!

The BugLady