We've known for a while that bees are clever. They hold dance contests as part of a democratic process in the hive and use flower color cues to find the best access to a plant's nectar. Now, new research has given us a better picture of the secret lives of bees. According to the Guardian, bees can solve complicated mathematical problems that stump even supercomputers.
Computers solve the problem by comparing the lengths of all the possible route combinations, and then picking the one that's the shortest. Bees just seem to figure it out instantly. The Guardian article compares the bees' brain size to a grass seed, but points out that reserving energy on their flower flights is essential for their survival.
The article details the study, conducted at the University of London. In the experiment, researchers used computer-controlled artificial flowers to see whether the bees traveled in the order they found the flowers or spent time to look for the shortest route. The Guardian said the research has implications for humans, too, since "modern living depends on networks such as traffic flows, internet information, and business supply chains."
Understanding the ways these insects solve such complex problems without computers could be key to our future cities.