Everyone thinks that less complex animals, such as insects, cannot have feelings or, more correctly, emotions, that is subjective mental states caused by external events. But an intricate series of experiments carried out by English researchers has instead shown how positive facts can change the attitude of insects, in particular bumblebees.

Scientists at Queen Mary University in London presented two groups of bumblebees (Bombus terrestris, a close relative of the bees) with the "theater of operations", that is, two cylinders: the first contained a bit of sugar water, the second only water. The first was marked with a blue plaque, the second green. The bumblebees quickly learned to enter the "sweeter" cylinder, and the researchers ascertained that the quantity of softened liquid was not such as to modify the appetite of the bumblebees, but only their "mood", that is the general attitude towards the rest of the experiment.

Let's explore! In a second moment they made the insects in the arena again to reach the usual cylinder: in this case, however, to reach the container, they had to pass through a tunnel that could contain, randomly, some droplets of sugar water or water simple. And crucially, the target cylinder at the end of the arena was marked with an ambiguous color, somewhere between blue and green.

The results? The bees that had drunk the sweet liquid in the passage were more "optimistic" and entered the indefinite color cylinder more quickly, as if expecting the reward. The others, who had been able to drink only a bit of plain water, did not have a great desire to enter, as if they did not expect much from the experience.

Six-legged feelings. The experiment is part of a wide series of researches that have also established how the basis of these changes is a neurotransmitter, dopamine, which, even in our brain, changes mood and attitude towards life. The brain of bumblebees, and most likely that of other insects, therefore works at certain levels in a way not very different from ours.

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