Bees Master Complex Tasks Through Social Interaction | The Institute for Creation Research

Bees Master Complex Tasks Through Social Interaction

Bees are simply incredible.1,2 These little furry fliers challenge the very foundation of Darwinism in many diverse ways.

Bees have been delighting creationists for generations. These intelligent creatures can distinguish different humans from each other, as individuals, retaining memory of who is whom. Bees have remarkable math skills and communication abilities, including their use of “waggle dance” to inform other bees about where to find food.3

Consider also how

“Bees learn to fly the shortest possible route between flowers even if they discover the flowers in a different order,” according to a Royal Holloway, University of London press release. Researchers watched as bees encountered “computer controlled artificial flowers” at random, then quickly calculated the shortest route before visiting them all again….

Since not even humans with supercomputers could develop these clever algorithms, they must have been purposefully programmed into the insects by an intelligent programmer. Nature by itself could never put together such intricate programs. Even if it could, where would it obtain the power needed to insert them into the exact animals that require them?4

Now, researchers from Queen Mary University, London, have been surprised once again with the cognitive complexity of these insects,

In a groundbreaking discovery, bumblebees [Bombus terrestris] have been shown to possess a previously unseen level of cognitive sophistication. A new study, published in Nature, reveals that these fuzzy pollinators can learn complex, multi-step tasks through social interaction, even if they cannot figure them out on their own. This challenges the long-held belief that such advanced social learning is unique to humans, and even hints at the presence of key elements of cumulative culture in these insects.5 (emphasis added)

Two scientists led a research team to investigate how “bees master complex tasks through social interaction.”5 They put together a two-step puzzle box experiment. It required bumblebees to undergo two diverse actions in sequence to gain access to a reward at the end.

Training the bees was challenging, and extra rewards were given through the process. But these temporary rewards were eventually removed, and the bees ultimately had to open the entire box, upon which they received their reward.

According to the university press release, Dr. Alice Bridges of the research team

…emphasises the novelty of this finding: “This is an extremely difficult task for bees. They had to learn two steps to get the reward, with the first behaviour in the sequence being unrewarded. We initially needed to train demonstrator bees with a temporary reward included there, highlighting the complexity. Yet, other bees learned the whole sequence from social observation of these trained bees, even without ever experiencing the first step’s reward. But when we let other bees attempt to open the box without a trained bee to demonstrate the solution, they didn’t manage to open any at all.”5

What shocked the researchers is the cognitive capabilities of the bees that were previously thought to be exclusive to people. While individual bees starting from scratch found it challenging to solve the puzzle, the bees that watched a trained “demonstrator” bee soon learned the entire sequence. This included the first step, even though the bee only received a reward upon completion.

Scientists in Nature concluded that the bumblebees learn behaviour socially in a process too complex to innovate alone. They wrote,

This suggests that social learning might permit the acquisition of behaviours too complex to ‘re-innovate’ through individual learning. Furthermore, naive bees failed to open the box despite extended exposure for up to 24 days. This finding challenges a common opinion in the field: that the capacity to socially learn behaviours that cannot be innovated through individual trial and error is unique to humans.6

In this research, evolution is mentioned only as “the evolution of social learning”5 and in reference to human “evolutionary success.”6 But an evolutionary mechanism was not described. So, these phrases are more accurately faith statements made without support than scientific claims. The Lord Jesus designed bees—as well as other social insects—with their complex social learning capability. This position at least has a real Programmer that can write such programs into bees. This could never have been the result of random evolutionary processes over time. Animals—like bees—and people were created with the ability to adapt and learn new behaviors from the beginning.


  1. Sherwin, F. 2018. Bees Are Actually Really, Really Smart. Creation Science Update. Posted on July 19, 2018.
  2. Sherwin, F. Bee Brains Aren’t Pea Brains. Creation Science Update. Posted on July 11, 2019.
  3. Johnson, J. Hungry Bumblebees Hurry Pollen Production. Creation Science Update. Posted on May 30, 2020.
  4. Thomas, B. Bees Solve Math Problems Faster Than Computers. Creation Science Update. Posted on November 2, 2010.
  5. Bees master complex tasks through social interaction. Queen Mary University of London. Posted on March 6, 2024.
  6. Bridges, A. et al. 2024. Bumblebees socially learn behaviour too complex to innovate alone. Nature. 627: 572–578.

Stage image: Buff-tailed bumblebee
Stage image credit: Copyright © Vera Buhl, 2010. Used in accordance with federal copyright (fair use doctrine) law. Usage by ICR does not imply endorsement of copyright holder.

* Dr. Sherwin is a science news writer at the Institute for Creation Research. He earned an M.A. in invertebrate zoology from the University of Northern Colorado and received an Honorary Doctorate of Science from Pensacola Christian College.

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