Scientists have discovered that bees are able to count and do basic arithmetic.

A study has proved that they can add and subtract as well as being able to understand the concept of zero.

Researchers say the discovery expands our understanding of the relationship between brain size and brain power.

Australian and French researchers set out to test whether bees could perform basic arithmetic.

Solving maths problems requires a sophisticated level of brain power, involving the complex mental management of numbers, rules and short term working memory.

Scientists say the revelation that even the miniature brain of a honeybee can grasp basic mathematical operations has implications for the future development of Artificial Intelligence, particularly in improving rapid learning.

Led by researchers from RMIT University in Australia, the study showed bees can be taught to recognise colours as symbolic representations for addition and subtraction.

RMIT’s Associate Professor Adrian Dyer said numerical operations like addition and subtraction are complex because they require two levels of processing.

‘You need to be able to hold the rules around adding and subtracting in your long-term memory, while mentally manipulating a set of given numbers in your short-term memory,’ Dyer said.

‘On top of this, our bees also used their short-term memories to solve arithmetic problems, as they learned to recognise plus or minus as abstract concepts rather than being given visual aids.

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