Bees Recognize People

Common honey bees can be trained to recognize individual people, according to a paper published by Dr. Adrian Dyer in the Journal of Experimental Biology.

The training consisted of showing the bees a series of black-and-white pictures of human faces. The bees got tasty or sour rewards, depending on their performance. The face series is exactly the same one used by psychologists to test human memory.

How do bees do it? Bee brains are just one-twenty thousandth the size of a human brain. The experiment implies that there is a simpler solution to the problem of face recognition than has been discovered so far by biometric security researchers.

I'm getting this mental picture of a swarm of friendly, well-trained honey bees humming through an airport terminal, looking for known terrorists. And they even have a way to incapacitate their prey! On the other hand, since stinging kills the bee, you'd be losing highly trained assets...

In his chilling novel The Green Brain, science fiction author Frank Herbert writes about insects evolving to the point where particular insects or hives of insects can indeed recognize individual human beings.

For more experimental uses of insects, see the Cockroach-controlled mobile robot and Bees may be keys to cooperative robots. Read more about how Honey bees recognize people.

(This Science Fiction in the News story used with permission from - where science meets fiction.)