Learned behaviour: back-to-school bugs
Learned behaviour: back-to-school bugs

Learned behaviour means that insects are becoming cleverer, these ‘back-to-school bugs’ are learning how to survive. Any pest control programme is only effective if the species is correctly identified during the initial site survey. Moreover, identifying the behavioural characteristics of any pest will assist us with the necessary type of control. For example, rats are reticent when it comes to an interaction with new objects in their environment. Furthermore, they have learned to use designated ‘safe runs’ for movement around an infested area.

Learned behaviour: Insects go to school.

In fact, recent research has shown that insects can learn what maybe a potential threat. So, if a pest controller uses the same patterns of control, the pest will learn to understand the potential threat. 

Learned behaviour: Bees are top of the class

‘Bees learned behaviour: back-to-school bugs. Bees are top of the class’.

Specifically, bee skills include colour recognition and and a strong sense of smell. Furthermore, they utilise these traits to learn which colours and odours, are most rewarding for finding nectar.  Furthermore, bees use abstract thought and symbolic language. Also, they can identify landscape and the route home after foraging for distances of several miles. Indeed, learning through experience is a recognised form of intelligence.

‘Bees go to dance school’

One of the greatest discoveries of abstract thinking among bees goes to Karl von Frisch. Von Frisch won the Nobel Prize in physiology and medicine in 1973. He and his team unlocked the key to the Waggle Dance. This elaborate pattern of movements enables bees to communicate to others in their hive. Indeed, the bees can communicate the location of such things as a source of nectar, or a place to build a new hive. Additionally, von Frisch discovered that the “dance”,  includes details of time and distance to a source, relative to the position of the sun. 

More cynical researchers have argued that visual dance isn’t significant because of the darkness in the hive. Conversely, they argue that it may be the smell of the plants that lingers on the foraging bee. Hence, after returning from the field that smell contributes to finding the source of the nectar.  However, other researchers claim that it is the sound from the dancing bees that is the key. Nevertheless, the waggle dance is an ingenious form of communication.

Learned behaviour – Back-to-school bees: shared conciousness

More recent studies have proposed that consciousness lies not with the individual bees, but with the colony as a whole. These proponents use the term “superorganism.” Furthermore, the behaviour of the colony dictates the behavior of the individual bees. Hence, colonies are a complex structure of interdependent and subordinate elements. Social animals like bees cannot live alone, and their behavior only makes sense when viewed as a whole colony consciousness.

In conclusion, through their collective behaviour, bees keep the colony alive and it is the colony which determines behaviour. 

Sports in Bee School: tug-of-war

Lars Chittka (Queen Mary University, London) demonstrated that bees could learn to pull on a piece of string to release nectar. When new bees watched experienced bees pull the string, the new bees learned at a more rapid rate. Moreover,they successfully pulled the string 60 percent of the time. The same research team, also described how they trained bumble bees to move a ball to a target location.

In conclusion, Chittka summarized, “…experiments on small-brained insects small shows that they can deal with exceptionally complex challenges.”  Furthermore, this creative problem solving in insects, shows how new behaviours can develop as the need arises.

Learned behaviour: back-to-school bugs and urban pest management

Unfortunately, insect learning has received little attention in the field of urban pest management. Moreover, much of the research has only focused on the behaviour of cockroaches. Early experiments demonstrated that a frequently repeated stimulus helps cockroaches avoid insecticide-treated areas. 

Indeed, cockroaches can become familiar with some contact insecticides. Therefore, improving their ability to avoid the threat. Moreover, there is also growing evidence of social learning in cockroaches.

Learned behaviour: back-to-school bugs and the implications for pest management

Intercropping and Physical Barriers

Large scale, modern, industrial-style mono-culture farming, are ideal venues for learning by green plant feeding insects. Indeed, insects have ample opportunity for repeated stimuli and positive reward experiences to reinforce their learning.  Moreover, inter-cropping (use of a variety of plants within a crop area) has been used as an effective pest management strategy.

Consequently, a variety of inter-cropping strategies are currently in use, including:

1. alternating plants within a row.

2. alternating rows of plants.

3. use of multiple varieties or species of plants in a single crop area.

4. inter-cropping throughout the entire crop area.

5. then creating a border area of inter-cropped plants.

Additionally, many inter-cropping strategies use one or more plant species or varieties with properties that are repellent to pest species or attractive to predatory species. Moreover, inter-cropping can disrupt learning processes in insects by introducing unrewarded or negative experiences.

Similarly, physical barriers, including greenhouses, growing tunnels, and pesticide-treated barrier nets can be effective to control or reduce the inflow of pest insects. However, this may also limit the movement of beneficial insects.

In conclusion – Learned behaviour: back-to-school bugs

‘Learned behaviour: back-to-school bugs’. In conclusion, the technicians at pestcontrol.me.uk are constantly updating their knowledge of insect behaviour. Consequently, they can adapt and improve their pest control strategies. Indeed, the bugs may well be going back to school but so are our technicians.