Do Honeybees Have Distinct Personalities?

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March 12 2012 1:31 PM

Do Honeybees Have Distinct Personalities?

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(A honeybee hovers over a flower in Kathmandu on November 11, 2011. Beekeeping is popular among Nepalese farmers in rural villages in the Himalyan nation.)

Photo by PRAKASH MATHEMA/AFP/Getty Images

Not content to sit around the hive all day, some bees crave adventure too!

Entomologists at the University of Illinois reported that honeybees that scout for food or additional lodgings exhibit distinct patterns of activity in their brains known to be associated with thrill seeking in humans. The study, which supports findings of 2011 research suggesting bees can exhibit pessimism, supports a growing theory that insects indeed have their own personalities.

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The study also challenges long-held assumptions about honeybee communities, suggesting far from interchangeable workers taking on regimented roles, the bee population features certain groups that are more tempted to buzz into the great blue yonder, even if it is dangerous. For instance, the small number of bees used to scout out a new home are more than three times as likely to go on to become food scouts. Scientists say showing that consistent tendency in different contexts like having a personality trait.

Video produced by Jim Festante

Ben Johnson is the producer of Marketplace Tech from American Public Media.

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