Gooooal! Bumblebees Learn to Play Soccer

Success gif

Via Discover!

If scoring a goal is the only way to earn a sugary treat, a bumblebee will summon its inner Messi.

Indeed, rolling a ball into a goal—soccer, sort of—is the latest puzzle solved by Bombus terrestris after training with scientists/bee trainers at Queen Mary University of London. In October, scientists from the same lab—the Chittka Lab—taught bees to tug strings for treats. There are no plans to start a traveling carnival; instead, scientists are pushing bees’ to their cognitive limits to learn how complex behaviors arise from minuscule brains.

“There’s no reason to believe that unique capacities of large-brained animals and humans aren’t actually available or present in a lot of other animals,” says Clint Perry, a Queen Mary researcher who studies the power of tiny brains. “Just because a bee has a small brain, it’s not limiting their capacity.”

Perry and colleagues are searching for the fundamental neural mechanisms required for learning, and bees’ significantly smaller neural circuit boards increases the odds they’ll succeed. Bumblebees pack roughly 1 million neurons into their brains, compared to humans’ 1oo billion.

Bee Training

When Chittka Lab behavioral ecologist Olli Loukola first endeavored to teach bees, he nearly gave up after two weeks of trying. But one day, it all came together for a bee and Loukola grabbed a colleague and said, “Come, I have trained my first bee.”

Today, Loukola is a pro; he can train a bee in a day or two using sugar water, patience and fake bees. Bumblebee colonies in the Chittka Lab are connected to training arenas where researchers present bees with a task—in this case, a ball and a hole. Within 5 minutes, bees had to push the ball into the center of a platform to get a reward. Eventually, the task required them to put it in the hole. For stumped bees, Loukola deployed an artificial bee-on-a-stick to nudge the ball and demonstrate proper technique. The bees caught on.

Learn more

Adafruit publishes a wide range of writing and video content, including interviews and reporting on the maker market and the wider technology world. Our standards page is intended as a guide to best practices that Adafruit uses, as well as an outline of the ethical standards Adafruit aspires to. While Adafruit is not an independent journalistic institution, Adafruit strives to be a fair, informative, and positive voice within the community – check it out here:

Join Adafruit on Mastodon

Adafruit is on Mastodon, join in!

Stop breadboarding and soldering – start making immediately! Adafruit’s Circuit Playground is jam-packed with LEDs, sensors, buttons, alligator clip pads and more. Build projects with Circuit Playground in a few minutes with the drag-and-drop MakeCode programming site, learn computer science using the CS Discoveries class on, jump into CircuitPython to learn Python and hardware together, TinyGO, or even use the Arduino IDE. Circuit Playground Express is the newest and best Circuit Playground board, with support for CircuitPython, MakeCode, and Arduino. It has a powerful processor, 10 NeoPixels, mini speaker, InfraRed receive and transmit, two buttons, a switch, 14 alligator clip pads, and lots of sensors: capacitive touch, IR proximity, temperature, light, motion and sound. A whole wide world of electronics and coding is waiting for you, and it fits in the palm of your hand.

Have an amazing project to share? The Electronics Show and Tell is every Wednesday at 7pm ET! To join, head over to YouTube and check out the show’s live chat – we’ll post the link there.

Join us every Wednesday night at 8pm ET for Ask an Engineer!

Join over 36,000+ makers on Adafruit’s Discord channels and be part of the community!

CircuitPython – The easiest way to program microcontrollers –

Maker Business — “Packaging” chips in the US

Wearables — Enclosures help fight body humidity in costumes

Electronics — Transformers: More than meets the eye!

Python for Microcontrollers — Python on Microcontrollers Newsletter: Silicon Labs introduces CircuitPython support, and more! #CircuitPython #Python #micropython @ThePSF @Raspberry_Pi

Adafruit IoT Monthly — Guardian Robot, Weather-wise Umbrella Stand, and more!

Microsoft MakeCode — MakeCode Thank You!

EYE on NPI — Maxim’s Himalaya uSLIC Step-Down Power Module #EyeOnNPI @maximintegrated @digikey

New Products – Adafruit Industries – Makers, hackers, artists, designers and engineers! — #NewProds 7/19/23 Feat. Adafruit Matrix Portal S3 CircuitPython Powered Internet Display!

Get the only spam-free daily newsletter about wearables, running a "maker business", electronic tips and more! Subscribe at !

No Comments

No comments yet.

Sorry, the comment form is closed at this time.