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You might have wondered why bumblebees stop for a moment to stare at the flower they were just interacted with. Are they cherishing all the good times they had together, or is this behavior serving a biological purpose?

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If you ever watch a bumblebee really closely you'll notice that some of them do something kind of odd when they're leaving a flower. They'll turn around mid-flight and just stare at it. Like they're a little drone taking footage. Like they're like that was a really beautiful flower. I wanna get another look at it. They're not doing it to collect information for their hive-mates, although bumblebees do live in colonies, they are solitary foragers. And also, not every bee does this the same way. Researchers have found that the biggest bees do it the most. So, what are they doing? It seems to have something to do with memory. This behavior is called learning flight. And bees do it so they can remember how they got there. They're taking a mental image of what the flower and the surrounding area look like, so that they can visit it again. That doesn't explain why the bigger bees would do this more. That's a question that came up in a 2021 study published in Current Biology. In it, researchers were studying bumblebee learning flights by offering bumblebees fake flowers with fake nectar, and even though the bees didn't seem to notice that the flowers and the nectar were totally fake, they did realize that some of them were more rewarding than others. The nectar in different flowers consisted of either 20 or 50 percent sugar so some flowers were kinda meh, and others were a pretty good score. What was unexpected was that the bigger bees worked harder to remember the more rewarding flowers. They spent more time facing the flowers while flying away from them on their learning flights. Meanwhile, the smaller bees didn't seem seem to care. In fact they treated all flowers equally. This was surprising because if you're a bee and you find a really rewarding flower, it seems you would want to remember it regardless of how big you are, but that doesn't seem to be the case. And it turns out a key variable is carrying capacity. Smaller bees don't forage that often. They spend more time on tasks around the nest. So when they do forage they're limited by how far they can travel so they tend not to be super picky. They don't bother putting all that effort into remembering super potent flowers because well they probably couldn't carry that much from them anyway. But larger bees can fly farther and carry more nectar back to the colony. Plus, their size means they can handle the cold better and they have better eyesight so they can visit flowers in the morning when the light is low, and there's more nectar around. So it may be worthwhile for them to seek out and memorize the locations of more rewarding flowers. Overall, it's not totally unexpected to see different bees in the same colony adopting different learning behaviors, but it was surprising that these behaviors seem to be based on size. Now the question is how many other overlooked bumblebee behaviors are there because the more we understand them, well the more we get to marvel at how cool and complex bumblebees are. But also, knowledge like that can help us figure out how to care better for our fuzzy friends. Thanks for watching this episode of SciShow if you want to keep learning about bees, well this really is just the tip of the iceberg. They're pretty incredible animals and you might learn more about them in our special bee compilation video. Yes. We have a whole video that is just other videos of bee stuff.