# Bees can understand the number zero

Even for humans, 0 is not an easy concept to understand. Children learn 0 often later than other numbers, and they often don’t know whether 0 is greater than 1 or less than 1. The invention of the mathematical symbol 0 is also later than other numbers in history.
In addition to humans, there are other animals that have mastered the concept of 0. For example, chimpanzees and monkeys can treat 0 as a quantity after training.
Since the brains of bees are too small, it seems unlikely that they will join this “knowledge 0 club”. But previous studies have found that bees have amazing counting skills, which can count to 4. So some people want to see if they can understand 0 after training.
First, train the bees to distinguish between two numbers. The research team built two platforms, each with 1 to 4 squares. If the bee stays on a platform with few squares, the bee will get a sweet sucrose drink as a reward; otherwise, waiting for them will be a bitter quinine solution. Through repeated training, they can make the right choice 80% of the time.
Next, remove both sweet and bitter drinks from the platform. Place 2 or 3 blocks on one platform, and the number of blocks on the other platform is 0. What’s interesting is that most of the time the bees stay on the platform with 0 squares. It can be seen that bees already know that “nothing (ie 0)” is a number smaller than 2 or 3.
If you let the number of squares on one platform always remain 0, and the number of squares on the other platform increases from 1 to 6. Bees generally choose 0, but choose between 0 and 1. Compared with choosing between 0 and 6, bees hesitate longer and have a higher probability of making mistakes. This shows that: 1. The difference between a number and 0 seems to affect the choice of bees; 2. Bees regard 0 as a number close to 1. Just like human children, sometimes it is not clear whether 0 is big or 1 is big.
These experiments show that bees’ understanding of 0 is similar to that of humans and certain primates. For example, we also regard “no (0)” as a number smaller than other natural numbers. It’s just that we still don’t know why they have this ability.