Buzzing Past Computers



on September 23, 2011

A recent study shows that bees can do the same work as computers in determining the shortest path when making multiple stops (aptly named the “traveling salesman problem”).* Plug the locations into a computer, and the system can pull up all possible routes and calculate the shortest one. But bees can also make the best determination with uncanny accuracy—all without RAM and “on the fly.”

Dr. Nigel Raine, who conducted the experiments at the University of London, tested whether bees would return to flowers in the order they discovered them or if they would fly the shortest return route. With brains the size of a grass seed, the bees picked out the most energy-efficient route. Such extraordinary behavior points to the Creator, who programmed bees with this incredible ability.

*Mathieu Lihoreau, Lars Chittka, and Nigel E. Raine, “Travel Optimization by Foraging Bumblebees through Readjustments of Traplines after Discovery of New Feeding Locations,” The American Naturalist 176(6).

For more information about bees, read Honeybees—Always on the Move