Wasps may be capable of logical thinking


Running into a wasp — or even worse, several wasps — on a nice summer day can be terrifying. Unlike honeybees, some wasp species are aggressive and if they decide your can of Mt. Dew is actually their can of Mt. Dew you could be in for a painful confrontation.

But just how smart are wasps? Research on honeybees has shown that they don’t seem capable of logical reasoning, but a new study by scientists at the University of Michigan suggests that the same may not be true of paper wasps. The work, which was published in Biology Letters, reveals that paper wasps may be able to logically deduce facts based on their own observations.

Determining whether an organism can use logic to make decisions isn’t easy. As the researchers put it, a creature has to know that “if A is greater than B and B is greater than C, then A is greater than C.” It sounds simple, but it can be hard to prove in practice.

For their test, the research team used color pairs that the insects had to familiarize themselves with. One of the colors provided a small electrical zap when touched while the other did not. The wasps rapidly learned which color was “safe” and which was not.

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