Bees know you

... by face

Published: Sunday 15 January 2006

To humans, all honeybees may look alike. But not all humans appear the same to bees. A study has found that the insects can learn to recognise human faces from photographs, and remember them for at least two days.

The finding puts a question mark on the belief that facial recognition requires a large brain. The result may help develop better face-recognition software, according to a team of scientists led by Adrian G Dyer from the University of Cambridge in the UK. The study appeared in the online version of Journal of Experimental Biology on December 2, 2005.

For the study, Dyer and two colleagues presented honeybees with photographs of human faces taken from a standard human psychology test. The bees learned to distinguish the correct face from the wrong one with better than 80 per cent accuracy, even when the faces were similar, and regardless of how the photographs were placed, the researchers found.

Dyer said not all bees were up to the task: some flunked it, he said, although this seemed due more to a failure to grasp how the experiment worked than to poor facial recognition specifically.

Subscribe to Weekly Newsletter :

Comments are moderated and will be published only after the site moderator’s approval. Please use a genuine email ID and provide your name. Selected comments may also be used in the ‘Letters’ section of the Down To Earth print edition.