Scientists have discovered that, just like humans, honeybees often find the best way to resolve indecision in a colleague is to administer a swift clout round the back of the head.
While such practices are now largely frowned upon in most human organisations – though any potential TechEye interns have to learn how to make good tea somehow – for bees it is a vital tool in problem solving with long periods of procrastination.
According to researchers from Sheffield University, such a physical approach to curtailing indecision is remarkably similar to how neurons in human brains stamp out umming and ahhing.
When bees are looking for a new hive, they organise themselves into systems very much like that of neuron structures in human brains.
A number of scouts are sent out to eye up potential property. Those which find a place with potential do a cool ‘waggle dance’ to attract attention, presumably in the manner of a gleeful estate agent when the customer’s left the room.
This dance is essentially a sign to other scouts that they have found a lovely hole in a tree somewhere. However, there’s often a likelihood that others too have found similarly suitable properties. This leaves the bees with a decision: either decide on a move quickly or risk the whole hive’s safety.
Faced with such an important decision with equally viable options displayed by the troupe of waggle dancers, a choice has to be made.
This is where it all gets a bit like the working of the human brain. Just like brain signals inhibiting certain neurons to narrow down the decision making process – and avoid the brain owner standing around like a late-night Burger King customer perusing the meal deals – the bees are given crude ‘stop signals’.
Said stop signals involve decision making bees seeking out dancing scouts and reducing the options by bashing them in the head and making “shrill beeping sounds”.
The scientists reckon that bees ‘stop signals’ could tell us something useful about the functioning of our brains, as the similarities are so striking in terms of functionality.
“This remarkable behaviour emerges naturally from the very simple interactions observed between the individual bees in the colony,” the boffins said.