Scientists Find Bumble Bees Love Playing With Balls

Bumble bees love to play, according to new research led by scientists from Queen Mary University of London. Their research, which observed bees playing with small wooden balls, is the first time that object play behaviour has been shown in an insect. It adds to evidence that bees may experience positive ‘feelings’. The researchers found that bumble bees went out of their way to roll wooden balls repeatedly despite there being no apparent incentive for doing so. The study also found that younger bees rolled more balls than older bees, mirroring the human behaviour of young children and other juvenile mammals and birds being the most playful. They also found that male bees rolled them for longer than their female counterparts. The study followed 45 bumble bees in an arena and gave them the options of walking through an unobstructed path to reach a feeding area or deviating from this path into the areas with wooden balls. Individual bees rolled balls between 1 and, impressively, 117 times over the experiment. They also found that bees preferred a chamber with the balls to one without. The “mind-blowing” research may indicate that bees are capable of positive mental states like creatures with far larger brains - indicating they can experience happiness.