Though the results came from just 14 bees, researchers say the advance is exciting, according to a summary of the findings in Science magazine. "If a brain about 20,000 times smaller than ours can perform arithmetic using symbols, it could pave the way to novel approaches in artificial intelligence and machine learning," Science's Alex Fox wrote.
Historically, the ability to do basic math has been vital for human societies to flourish, according to study lead author Scarlett R. Howard, a PhD researcher at RMIT. In a statement, she noted that Egyptians and Babylonians used arithmetic around 2000 B.C.
Previous studies have shown some primates, birds and even spiders can add and/or subtract. The new research adds bees to that list.