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Curr Biol. 2017 Oct 9;27(19):R1049-R1053. doi: 10.1016/j.cub.2017.08.008.

Bee cognition.

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Queen Mary University of London, Biological and Experimental Psychology, School of Biological and Chemical Sciences, Mile End Road, London E1 4NS, UK. Electronic address:


Maeterlinck did not mean to suggest that honeybees rival humans in intelligence - rather he saw in the bee a qualitatively different form of intelligence, tailored to the challenges of a profoundly different kind of society and lifestyle. Insects are strange "aliens from inner space", with sensory and cognitive worlds wholly different from our own. The 19th century discovery that ants can detect ultraviolet light triggered a golden age in the exploration of the diversity of sensory systems of insects (and indeed other animals), identifying such abilities as magnetic compasses, electrosensitivity, polarization vision, and peculiar locations for sense organs such as the infrared sensors on the abdomens of some beetles or photoreceptors on the genitalia of some butterflies. Could insect minds be equally strange and diverse?

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