A Bee Could Pick You Out of a Lineup

Really. Honeybees can recognize human faces.

Adrian Dyer of Cambridge University trained bees by having them associate a mug shot with a sweet reward of sugar water and then another photo with a bitter punishment of quinine water. After that the bees were tested and they did not bumble the job. When released they would typically hover a few inches from the photos before correctly landing on the reward face 80 to 90 percent of the time.The findings put a new buzz into a long-studied question that some scientists considered largely settled -- how humans themselves recognize faces. It was thought that facial recognition required a large brain, and possibly a specialized area dedicated to processing face information. The bee finding casts doubt on that, said Adrian G. Dyer, the lead researcher in the study.

The bees probably don’t understand what a human face is, Dyer said. “To the bees the faces were spatial patterns or strange looking flowers,” he added.

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