Bee brain, bird brain, chimp like; why do we naturally compare people to animals when trying to insult someone’s intelligence? Last time I checked animals didn’t vote for Trump or Brexit and aren’t causing global warming. Why do we so readily think of animals as ‘stupid’?
Cynics will point out that bees can’t go to the moon, or build Ipads. However, the reason that we think of animals as ‘stupid’ by comparison to humans is because humans have a very egocentric understanding of the word ‘intelligence’.
What even is intelligence? When you start to break this question down even in humans it becomes difficult to come up with a conclusive understanding. A man or woman with autism might have a fantastic understanding of numbers but might struggle socially, we all knew the kid at school who was a ‘genius’ but never worked and ultimately did poorly academically. Who is to say these people are more or less ‘intelligent’ than others?
Bees have been shown to be capable of various ‘human like’ behaviours. Who could have possibly missed the various viral videos of bumblebees ‘playing football’ and string pulling. Although these experiments are extremely interesting I think it is important to remember the remarkable cognitive abilities that bee’s (and other animals) show in the wild.
Bees do have a small brain. Roughly the size of a pin head but they can do remarkable things with them. Bee’s navigate a huge landscape relative to their size, learn about this environment quickly and efficiently, learn asocial cues (flower colour and shape) and social cues and can even learn to avoid dangerous flowers based on past experience. Honey bee’s can also communicate with one another through the waggle dance, indicating new nest locations and food sources. I on the other hand struggle to go anywhere without a smartphone or a knowledgeable friend.
Bees and other animals have incredible cognitive capabilities that have evolved to suit their surrounding environment the same way human evolution has been shaped by our environment. The time has come for people to stop making human’s the base level of what an ‘intelligent being’ is thought of and consider the simple question; could I do what a bee does?