CIE Seminar Series – 2020: Numerical ability and quantity use in honeybees

SPEAKER: Dr Scarlett Howard, Alfred Deakin Postdoctoral Fellow, Symonds Lab, Centre for Integrative Ecology, School of Life and Environmental Sciences, Faculty of Science, Engineering and Built Environment, Deakin University

DATE & TIME: Friday, 7th August 2020 @ 12:00 noon

LOCATION: Seminar to be streamed via Zoom. Click HERE to connect.


Many non-human animals demonstrate some level of numerical ability which includes an understanding of complex numerical concepts such as arithmetic, sequential ordering of numbers, or an understanding the concept of zero. Although very little research has been done on numerical ability in invertebrates, honeybees and several other insects have been shown to possess some numerical capabilities.

I have recently assessed the capacity of honeybees to exhibit complex numeric skills such as number categorisation, extrapolation, and simple arithmetic. Honeybees can place an empty set in the correct position along a line of sequential numbers, learn to categorise numbers as greater or lesser in context, acquire abstract colour-based rules to solve elementary incremental and decremental problems, and demonstrate an ability to match symbols with specific quantities.

Furthermore, I will present recent data on how bees use number skills in natural foraging situations. In some cases, honeybees have mastered numerical concepts at a level that parallels abilities demonstrated by primates, mammals, birds, and other vertebrates.


Scarlett Howard explores conceptual learning, neurobiology, and visual perception in honeybees as well as insect diversity, pollinator preferences, and plant-pollinator interactions.

She has worked on honeybee learning, cognition, behaviour, and vision for about 7 years and is currently an Alfred Deakin Postdoctoral Research Fellow at Deakin University conducting research on the effect of anthropogenic environmental change on native and introduced pollinators with a focus on bees.

For more info click HERE.

As a courtesy, we request that when connecting to the seminar that you mute your microphone unless you are required to speak, this would ensure that the sound from the speaker to the audience is not disrupted by feedback from your microphone.

Thanking you in advance!