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Bumblebees seem to have a "positive emotionlike state," according to a study published this week in Science. In other words, they may experience something akin to happiness.

The study consisted of hepping the bees up on sugar water and seeing how fast they fly towards flowers they were trained to associate with having sugar water.

He and his colleagues trained bumblebees to distinguish between a blue flower placed on the left side of a container and a green one on the right. When the bees explored the blue flower, they found a 30 percent sugar solution. But when they explored the green one, they slurped up plain, unsweetened water. Eventually, the bees learned to associate the blue flower with a tasty reward.

Then the researchers tested the bees on ambiguously colored flowers at intermediate locations. Half of the insects were given a 60 percent sugar solution prior to the test, and those bees flew faster toward the ambiguous blue-green flower. The remaining bees that were not given the sugar flew more slowly.

The assumption that an ambiguous stimulus contains a reward despite the lack of evidence is called an optimism bias. Perry's experiment suggests that a bit of sugar amped up the bees into a positive emotional state, making them more optimistic that the flower would contain a sugary treat.


By min | October 12, 2016, 8:50 AM | Science