arthropod accountants

New research suggests that bumblebees can be taught how to recognise nothing as an amount, having previously demonstrated the ability to count as high as four. The findings were presented by biologist and bee enthusiast, Scarlett Howard from Melbourne's Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology at the recent Behaviour 2017 meeting in Portugal. Most human cultures have developed the ability to count, but animals and human infants use a form of counting called subitizing — a process of rapid and accurate judgments of amounts performed for small numbers of items. While a few animals can do this, the concept of zero is rarely considered part of this process, and is considered a complex, high level concept, not expected to be seen in an insect. The researchers suggest that the ability to count from one to four might help the bees keep track of landmarks as they travel over long distances, but how would the concept of 'zero' be of much use? To find out more go to