Bees Order Numbers From Left To Right Claims Study

Bees Order Numbers From Left To Right, Claims Study


A new study has revealed that bees order numbers in increasing size from left to right. This has now further backed up the claim that this is the direction inherent in all animals including human beings.

The study was published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS) and explored the numeric sense of honey bees. It showed that after being trained to associate numbers with a sucrose reward, the bees order numbers not previously experienced from left to right according to their magnitude.

Western research has found that even before children learn to count, they start organising growing quantities from left to right in what has been called the “mental number line”. However the opposite direction has been found in people from cultures that use an Arabic script which reads from right to left.

The researchers used individual honeybees to fly into the first two compartments of a wooden box to collect sugar water or sucrose solution. Bees had to fly into a first compartment through an entrance hole in the box and then into a second compartment through a second hole in the middle of an internal wall. The trained number remained constant for each individual bee, but varied randomly across the group from between one, three or five, in shapes of circles, squares or triangles.

Once the bees were trained to fly towards their set number, the researchers removed it and put another number on both sides of the second compartment, leaving the middle blank. They then removed the sugar-water reward and observed which way the bees went.


Martin Giurfa,  a professor at the Research Centre on Animal Cognition at Paul Sabatier University in France, who led this study said that around 80 percent of the time the bees chose the option on the left — the “correct choice” if brains order numbers from left to right.

Mr Giurfa added that if those same bees were given two number fives to choose from, they went right, again supporting the mental number line. And bees trained to go for number one went to the right for a number three, while bees targeting a five went left for their three.

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