Are bees or wasps smarter?

insectsWith a tiny brain, the bee is highly flexible and intelligent

Bee? Sure you know! Important honey producer; optimally organized in a division of labor, uses the waggle dance to tell her comrades where magnificent flowers can be found. Great animal! If that is your level of knowledge about bees, you absolutely have to read the book by Randolf Menzel and Matthias Eckoldt: "The intelligence of bees. How they think, plan, feel and what we can learn from them". Because in it the renowned neuroscientist Randolf Menzel explains that bees can do a lot more than they previously even suspected. Example waggle dance:

"In this way, the bees not only exchange information about the nectar and pollen, but also about water sources and resin spots. And last but not least, the bees use the waggle dance to vote on a new nesting place."

Bees are capable of learning

Randolf Menzel makes it clear that anyone who is capable of such coordination has to be clever. Although the bee has only a tiny brain, it is highly flexible and intelligent. Unfortunately, the book often describes the experiments and findings on the intelligence of bees in such detail that the reader sometimes has to strain his brain. For example, when Menzel describes how bees learn the following behavioral rule: Whenever you see a marking, always fly into a tube with the same marking. At first the bees only had to cope with the task of flying into either a yellow or a red tube if they had previously seen a yellow or a red marker.

"After they had learned this task, we didn't show the bees colors, but black and white patterns. The fact that they solved the task without errors showed that they had not learned the colors, but actually the rules behind them. Amazingly, the bees transmit the task of comparing not only colors and shapes, but also of assigning scents according to a color training - a task that mice cannot, by the way.

Insight into the sensory and communication skills of bees

With the help of many, also colored illustrations, the reader gets an insight into the sensory and communication abilities of the bees. He learns that they draw conclusions, that they have a flexible memory, that they feel and even dream. Menzel and his co-author, the science journalist Matthias Eckoldt, also vividly describe his own research life: from the first child's curiosity to later great moments in his laboratory.

"Martin Hammer had found the most important neuron for learning processes in the brain: the reward neuron. Animals and humans learn through rewards. We had used this mechanism in our experiments for decades. Now suddenly there was a neuron in all its beauty in front of us, this reward performed and was sufficient for learning. An unbelievable moment that still gives me goose bumps in a conditioned reflex. "

However, Menzel's own research also shows that bees are particularly threatened by pesticides. There is therefore an appeal at the end of the book.

"So wouldn't it be worthwhile to spend a little more on our diet and, preferably, to buy products that are produced with the exclusion of environmentally harmful chemicals?"

target group
Everyone who is interested in the current state of research on bees.

Knowledge gain
A lot of intelligence is possible even with a little brain.

Fun factor
Great reading pleasure for anyone who wants to use their own mind to understand the mind of the bees.

Randolf Menzel, Matthias Eckoldt: The intelligence of bees. How they think, plan, feel and what we can learn from them. 368 pages, Knaus Verlag Munich, 2016; 24.99 euros.