There is a Cost to ‘Bee-ing’ Too Smart

It doesn’t pay to be smart, at least for bumblebees.

That is the finding of a new study by Prof. Nigel Raine, School of Environmental Sciences. He discovered that fast-learning bumblebees die sooner than their slower-learning co-workers.

As well, “smart” bees did not collect food any faster and completed no more foraging bouts each day.

Researchers used radio frequency identification tagging technology to monitor bees’ foraging activity and the quality of nectar or pollen they brought to the nest.

The researchers suggest the energy demands of intelligence eat up limited resources, leaving smart bees with less energy for foraging than slower-learning counterparts.

Published in Scientific Reports, the study highlights the potential cost of cleverness and could have implications for other species than bees, Raine says. He adds the findings may help in conserving habitat and pollinators for commercial crops.