So Turns Out Bees Can Do Math — As If They Needed Another Reason To Be Amazing

mbg Contributor By Elizabeth Gerson
mbg Contributor
Elizabeth Gerson is a former mindbodygreen intern and a student at Stanford University studying Psychology and Communication with a specialization in Health & Development.

Image by Vera Lair / Stocksy

We've got a lot to thank bees for—our entire environment basically depends on their survival, after all. And as if they weren't impressive enough already, scientists just found out they can actually do basic arithmetic.

Scientists have already determined that bees possess some impressive cognitive skills, and this time around they set out to see if math is one of them: "Bees have demonstrated the ability to learn a number of rules and concepts to solve problems such as 'left/right,' 'above/below,' 'same/different,' and 'larger/smaller,'" the study reads.

After hours and hours of training, honeybees were taught to associate yellow shapes with subtraction (-1) and blue shapes with addition (+1). They then flew into a "decision chamber" where they were presented with a certain number of the shapes and given two paths to follow: one with the correct answer and one with the incorrect answer, based on whether they were doing addition or subtraction. If the bee saw three blue shapes, for example, the "right" answer would be four blue shapes. Researchers found that the bees actually answered the problems correctly about 75 percent of the time.

OK, so bees can add and subtract by one. Alone that may not be that big of a feat, but when you combine it with everything else the critter can do, you have one impressive list:

Bees help feed the world.

In the coming years, we're going to have to learn how to feed a growing global population, and bees will be a big help. Through the pollination process, which is responsible for plant reproduction, bees effectively help grow a third of the world's food. Without them, we'd lose essential produce and superfoods like avocado, kale, apples, and celery, just to name a few. Can you imagine life without avo toast? Tragic.

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Bees provide some serious flower power.

If you've ever experienced the joy of smelling a fresh bouquet or admiring wildflowers, you've got honeybees to thank for their beauty and mood-boosting benefits.

Bees make our fave skin and body superheroes.

Besides the food and flowers, we have bees to credit with a ton of other healthy products. Manuka honey is super for your gut health and immune system, and beeswax is a natural beauty staple that can help even the most sensitive skin get that goddess-like glow.

Any way you spin it, the benefits of bees are pretty sweet. Mathematicians or not, these little guys are the key to a healthy and happy future.

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