Bees understand the concept of zero

20 June 2018 par webmaster
Bees are able to represent themselves and interpret the zero. This has just been demonstrated by Aurore Avarguès-Weber, a researcher at the Centre de recherches sur la cognition animale (CNRS/Université Toulouse III - Paul Sabatier) and her Australian colleagues, proving for the first time that insects are capable of mathematical abstraction.

The zero, which symbolizes nothing, the neutral or the absence, being a relatively recent human construction, these results, published in Science on June 8, 2018, question the symbolic importance of the zero in the history of mathematics.

It had already been shown that some vertebrates mastered complex numerical concepts, such as addition or zero, but nothing had been proven in insects. Since bees can count at least 5, researchers have trained them in the concept of “bigger than” and “smaller than”.


Scarlett R. Howard, Aurore Avarguès-Weber, Jair Garcia, Andrew Greentree, Adrian G. Dyer.
“Bees extrapolate ordered relations to place numerosity zero on a numerical continuum”
Science, 2018. DOI:10.1126/science.aar4975

Researcher contact
Aurore Avarguès-Weber

See also