While various vertebrates have been taught to learn humans’ concept of “zero,” might too honey bees, even though their brains have thousands of times fewer neurons? In episode 31 Adrian Dyer from RMIT and Monash University in Australia talks with us about his work first teaching bees to count and then extrapolate what they’ve learned to infer zero. His open-access article “Numerical ordering of zero in honey bees” was published with Scarlett Howard and multiple co-authors in the June 2018 issue in Science.



Websites and other resources



QuartzScience Alert | Popular ScienceSmithsonian Magazine | Discover | The Conversation | NPR New York Times| RMITQuartz-a | Quartz-b | The Scientist | Vox | NPR



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Hosts / Producers

Doug Leigh & Ryan Watkins

How to Cite

Leigh, D., Watkins, R., & Dyer, A.. (2018, September 4). Parsing Science – Nothing to a Bee. figshare. https://doi.org/10.6084/m9.figshare.7048544


What’s The Angle? by Shane Ivers


Adrian Dyer: What I like to think about is we have an animal or an insect, we have a small brain, less than a million neurons, and she wants to come back and participate in their experiment all day long.

Ryan Watkins: This is Parsing Science. The unpublished stories behind the world’s most compelling science as told by the researchers themselves. I’m Ryan Watkins.

Doug Leigh: And I’m Doug Leigh. The humans invented the concept of zero about two thousand years ago. It’s only been in the last forty years that researchers have determined that other animals including monkeys chimpanzees and parrots can be trained to understand the number as well. Today in episode 31 of Parsing Science we’re joined by Adrian Dyer from RMIT and Monash University in Australia. He’ll talk with us about how honeybees have recently been found to infer the number 0 based solely on learning the concepts of greater than and less then. Here’s Adrian Dyer.

Dyer: Hi! My name is Adrian Dyer. I’m a visual ecologist. That means I like studying how vision works in very complex environments, how we see the world, and how different animals see the world. And, this is a fascination which started when I was a young boy and I was just very interested how I saw things, how different people saw things differently, and my first insight into that was to study photography because you can document things. Because I didn’t even know about studying biology when I was a young boy, and so I did a photographic course in a photographic degree and was very lucky that I had a job at a university as a photographer and a professor of biology was very interested in vision and asked me to do a PhD with him. And, I got involved with working with animals and visual perception, and that’s how I got started on these a long time ago. But, I think what inspires you when you’re a young man or young woman, often influences your whole life.

Watkins: Doug and I began our conversation by asking Adrian where the bees that he and his team study come from, and how they’re trained.

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