London: Much like humans, bumblebees can be 'forgetful' too, reveals a new research.
Bees are very clever creatures and can remember the patterns, colours and scents of various kinds of flowers. They can also navigate to those flowers and back home again over long distances.
"We discovered that the memory traces for two stimuli can merge, such that features acquired in distinct bouts of training are combined in the animal's mind," said Lars Chittka of the Queen Mary University of London.
Chittka and his colleague Kathryn Hunt first trained bumblebees to expect a reward when visiting a solid yellow artificial flower followed by one with black-and-white rings or vice versa.
During subsequent tests, bees were given a choice between three types of flowers.
Two were the yellow and the black-and-white types they'd seen before. The third type of flower had yellow-and-white rings, representing a mixed-up version of the other two.
Minutes after the training, the bees showed a clear preference for the flower that most recently rewarded them. Their short-term memory for the flowers was good.
One or three days later, however, something very different happened when the bumblebees' memory was put to the test.
At first, the bees showed the same preference displayed in the earlier tests, but as the day wore on, they appeared to grow confused.
Half of the time, they began selecting the flower with yellow rings, even though they'd never actually seen that one in training before.
Chittka and Hunt said the insects' observed merging of long-term memories is similar to the memory conjunction errors humans sometimes make.
The study was published in the journal Current Biology.