Watch Cute Bumblebees Playing with Toys

It turns out even worker bees know how to cut loose. A group of scientists used a rolling ball experiment to determine that bumblebees play just like other animals. As with humans, dogs, and dolphins, younger bees played more than older ones. Males rolled the balls more than females, which probably has to do with their respective roles in the hive. Female bumblebees bring food back to the group. Males, however, have less responsibility and usually leave to forage only for themselves. Watch the bumblebees at play in the below video.

“It is certainly mind-blowing, at times amusing, to watch bumble bees show something like play,” says the study’s lead author, Ph.D. student Samadi Galpayage, in a news release. “They approach and manipulate these ‘toys’ again and again. It goes to show, once more, that despite their little size and tiny brains, they are more than small robotic beings. This sort of finding has implications to our understanding of sentience and welfare of insects and will, hopefully, encourage us to respect and protect life on Earth ever more.”    

The experiment set up where bees play with wooden balls
H.S.G. Dona et al., Animal Behaviour (2022)

Scientists have strict guidelines to follow, even when it comes to games. So, five things have to be true in order for behavior to be considered play. There has to be no obvious survival reason for the activity and it has to be different from behaviors like eating and mating. Play also has to be voluntary and repeated, and it has to happen in a relaxed environment.

Through their experimental design, the research team demonstrates all five aspects and determines the bees rolling on wooden balls counts as play. They published the study in the peer-reviewed journal Animal Behaviour, which we saw thanks to IFL Science

A bumblebee plays by climbing on a wooden ball to roll it
H.S.G. Dona et al., Animal Behaviour (2022)

We know plenty of animals play. Part of the reason the internet exists is so that we can watch dogs, cats, otters, dolphins, and other critters frolic. And with the recent news that bees can count, maybe it’s not that surprising that after all that math they just want to join in on the fun.

Featured Image: Samadi Galpayage

Melissa is Nerdist’s science & technology staff writer. She also moderates “science of” panels at conventions and co-hosts Star Warsologies, a podcast about science and Star Wars. Follow her on Twitter @melissatruth.

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