Bee's Tiny Brain Beats Computers at Complex Math Problem

Batavia, UNITED STATES: (FILES): This 22 August 2006 file photo shows three bees searching for pollen on a sunflower in Batavia, Illinois. US beekeepers have been stung in recent months by the mysterious disappearance of millions of bees threatening honey supplies as well as crops which depend on the insects for pollination. AFP PHOTO/FILES/Jeff HAYNES (Photo credit should read JEFF HAYNES/AFP/Getty Images)
Jeff Haynes AFP/Getty

Bees somehow figure out how to fly the shortest route between flowers. They don't know it, but they are solving the complex "Traveling Salesman Problem," which seeks the most efficient path (least total distance) a salesman can take through x number of cities.

Despite having a brain the size of a pinhead and a small number of neurons, bees can find the shortest distance between flowers, even if the order is changed, according to researchers at Queen Mary, University of London and Royal Holloway, University of London. The researchers hope that the study of the bee brain leads to understanding how complex problems, such as making information and traffic flow more efficient, can be solved with minimal neural circuitry, or compute power.

Prof. G.Srinivasan, Department of Management Studies, IIT Madras, explains the 'Traveling Salesman Problem'