Researcher Adrian Dyer and colleagues while working in Johannes Gutenberg Universität, Germany reported, in the Journal of Experimental Biology, they had determined that honeybees can distinguish individual faces and retain the ability for at least a two day period.
This puts a new wrinkle in the much debated topic of how we human's recognize faces as it was thought facial recognition required specialized areas of the brain. Due to size limitations of insects it was long believed that only mammals, with their larger brain capacities, were capable of recognizing facial charisterics.
Dyer used a sugar solution to train the bees to visit pictures of faces he wanted them to commit to memory, and also placed a bitter liquid on other pictures he wanted the bees to avoid. The bees eventually responded by apparently studying1 the image which supplied the sweet reward. To prove the bees weren't using positional cues the subject picture was then randomly placed among other pictures without the use of sweet or bitter liquids and the bees went straight to the familiar face.
The researchers reported that “this is evidence that face recognition requires neither a specialised neuronal2 circuitry nor a fundamentally advanced nervous system,” noting also that the facial recognition test they used was one that proved difficult for humans too.
The results of these tests raise questions about the comparative methods used by which honeybees and humans recognize faces; whether by picking out specific, easily recognized, features or the differences among facial features. The information derived could be important to and possibly aid researchers in developing face-recognition technologies for security purposes.