Bees are creatures full of wonders, being not altogether tame, nor absolutely wild, but between both, yet indocile, for most they do is by instinct.

Moses Rusden, A Further Discovery of Bees (London, 1679)


Bee Man of Tassili n’Ajjer

The Bee Man of Tassili n'Ajjer.
The Bee Man of Tassili n’Ajjer.

Tassili n’Ajjer (Berber: Tasili n Ajjer, meaning “Plateau of the Rivers”; Arabic: طاسيلي ناجر‎) is a mountain range in the Algerian section of the Sahara Desert. It is a vast plateau in south-east Algeria at the borders of Libya and Niger, covering an area of 72,000 km2.

The range is noted for its prehistoric rock art and other ancient archaeological sites, dating from the Neolithic era when the local climate was less dry, savannah rather than desert. The art is no older than 9–10 millennia, according to OSL dating of associated sediments, but may be younger.

The art depicts herds of cattle, large wild animals including crocodiles, and human activities such as hunting and dancing, inckludingthis depiction of a bee headed ‘shamen’ figure.


Honeybees can discriminate between Monet and Picasso paintings

Abstract from original paper by Wen Wu, Antonio M. Moreno, Jason M. Tangen, Judith Reinhard, published in the Journal of Comparative Physiology
January 2013, Volume 199, Issue 1, pp 45-55

Honeybees (Apis mellifera) have remarkable visual learning and discrimination abilities that extend beyond learning simple colours, shapes or patterns. They can discriminate landscape scenes, types of flowers, and even human faces. This suggests that in spite of their small brain, honeybees have a highly developed capacity for processing complex visual information, comparable in many respects to vertebrates. Here, we investigated whether this capacity extends to complex images that humans distinguish on the basis of artistic style: Impressionist paintings by Monet and Cubist paintings by Picasso. We show that honeybees learned to simultaneously discriminate between five different Monet and Picasso paintings, and that they do not rely on luminance, colour, or spatial frequency information for discrimination. When presented with novel paintings of the same style, the bees even demonstrated some ability to generalize. This suggests that honeybees are able to discriminate Monet paintings from Picasso ones by extracting and learning the characteristic visual information inherent in each painting style. Our study further suggests that discrimination of artistic styles is not a higher cognitive function that is unique to humans, but simply due to the capacity of animals—from insects to humans—to extract and categorize the visual characteristics of complex images.

The full paper is available here.