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The guests lining up outside a Brisbane gallery were not your typical culture vultures; in fact, until recently they’d never seen a painting in their life. But with just a little training, they developed their own artistic taste, showing a clear preference for Picasso’s crystalline constructions or Monet’s dreamy soft focus as they wandered lazily through the different rooms.

It’s little wonder that their talents created such a buzz, considering that they were working with a brain smaller than a pin head: these bona fide art critics were your common or garden honey bees, trained to find a syrupy surprise behind one or other of the artists’ work.

In fact, the ability to recognise artistic style was just the latest in a long list of achievements. Honey bees can count up to four, read complex signs, learn from observation and talk to each other in a secret code (the famous ‘waggle dance’). When foraging, they can weigh up the distance to different flowers, planning complex routes to collect the most nectar with the least effort. And within the hive, their individual responsibilities can include cleaning, undertaking (as they tend to the dead) and even air-conditioning, as they collect water to drop on the honey comb during hot weather.

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Image via aboutmodafinil.com

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