New Study Finds Bumblebees Play—and Have Feelings
A recent study found bumblebees engaging in voluntary play—and enjoying it. Here's what you need to know.
We love a bumblebee. The pollinators are responsible for keeping us vital, helping to pollinate over 90% of the world's crops—and if produce wasn't enough to impress you, we'd like to remind you that this number also includes coffee, cocoa, and a general wealth of pretty flowers. Bumbles are cute and fluffy, and they generate a welcome buzz around our well-worked gardens.
Plus, they play. Which means they have feelings.
A recent study published in Animal Behaviour found bumblebees engaging in voluntary play, rolling wooden balls around for no purpose other than their sheer enjoyment. Younger bees had even more fun, rolling more balls and echoing similar patterns in play among mammals.
Taken one step further, the choice to play could represent the presence of feelings—in this case, happy ones—in bumblebees.
"Our results contribute to the question of sentience in insects and lend further support for the existence of positive affective states in these animals," reads the study, which notes that other insects like ants and young wasps have been known to partake in object and social play as well.
So next time you're tempted to disparage a bumblebee, or (gasp!) swat it away, remember that this sort of insect cruelty not only hurts the planet—it may hurt feelings, too.
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