Sometimes Brain Size Doesn’t Count
You look up a telephone number and dial it. You didn’t write it down, you simply remembered it. But an hour later, you will probably not be able to remember the number. That kind of memory is known as “working memory.”
Honeybees may not have much for a brain, but researchers at the Australian National University in Canberra have found that honeybees have a surprisingly good working memory. Researchers constructed a tunnel, connected to a pipe with openings to different destinations. They marked these openings with simple signs – like wavy lines. They trained the bees to learn that an opening with a specific sign offered a treat, while the other opening – also marked by a sign – offered nothing. After the bees had learned which sign marked the goodies, the scientists made the tunnel longer to learn how long the bees’ working memory lasted. They also began offering differing signs to learn how flexible the bees’ working memory is. Their conclusion is that honeybees have a working memory that lasts about five seconds, the same as birds. But more amazing is that their memory proved as flexible as a rhesus monkey.
Gathering pollen from a range of flowering plants requires a good working memory. Honeybees’ sophisticated working memories have nothing to do with evolutionary ascent. It’s a needed ability given them by a loving Creator.