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Emotional Bumblebees

September 30, 2016

Can bees and other insects feel emotional?

Transcript

Penny Metal CC BY 2.0, via flickr

A bumblebee on a flower. (Penny Metal CC BY 2.0, via flickr)

BOB HIRSHON (host):

Are insects emotional? I’m Bob Hirshon and this is Science Update.

It’s clear to anyone who has a dog that non-human mammals experience a wide range of emotional states. But what about animals like insects? Researchers now report in Science magazine that bumblebees display emotion-like states, too.

CLINT PERRY (Queen Mary University of London):

Many of us look at insects as thoughtless or pre-programmed machines, but in fact, insects do some amazing things.

HIRSHON:

Queen Mary University of London researcher Clint Perry and his team found that unexpected sugar rewards induced positive emotion-like states in the bees. And consuming sugar helped the bees recover quickly from a simulated encounter with predator.

PERRY:

And we found that dopamine plays a role within that response.

HIRSHON:

That’s the same brain chemical released by the human brain when we consume sugar or experience other pleasures, suggesting we may share more with insects than once thought. I’m Bob Hirshon, for AAAS, the science society.

Story by Susanne Bard