By Ibrahim B. Syed
With the introduction of the computer age, man has often prided himself over his ability to produce machines which imitate the brain’s ability of carrying out complex mathematical functions, etc. Yet, the question remains to be asked: Just how much has man really achieved? We will answer that question by putting forward the example of just one tiny creation of Allah Tala; the honeybee. We often marvel at the healing Allah Tala has kept in honey. Now consider the mind of the honeybee just one of the millions of marvellous creations of Allah Tala.
Smartness of the honeybee How smart is the common honeybee?
It is far smarter than today’s most powerful super computers. Modern computers can attain the amazing processing speed of 16 gigaflops or 16 billion simple arithmetic operations, (such as adding two numbers), each second. On the other hand, the bee’s brain shows that the lowly honeybee performs the equivalent of ten trillion operations per second. Very astounding!
In the spring of 1983, the Smithsonian institution conducted a symposium on animal intelligence at which one of the researchers was Princeton ethnologist James L. Gould, an internationally renowned expert on honeybee behaviour. In one of his experiments, he wanted to observe the ways bees locate new food sources. To achieve this, Gould provided honeybees with desirable food sources. Once they were accustomed to feeding at the station, he moved the food sources by a factor of 1.25 the distance of the previous. What Gould found was that after a few such moves, the honeybees no longer had to search for the new location, but anticipated Gould’s behaviour so accurately that he found the bees circling the new location and waiting for their food before he had even arrived.
The honeybees were able to construct quite a complex simulation of reality in their tiny brains (less than ten milligrams) and deduce from past experience where Gould was going to place the food next. The bee does all of this while consuming a lot less power than a computer. According to Byte magazine, honeybee’s brain uses up less than 10 microwatts . It is superior by about seven orders of magnitude to the most efficient of today’s manufactured computers. What it means is that over ten million bee brains can operate on the power needed for a single 100 watt light bulb. The most efficient of today’s computers uses hundreds of millions of times more energy to perform an equivalent number of operations.
As shown above, they are able to navigate across long distances to locate sources of nectar and then return to the hive and communicate directions to fellow bees. They prepare special food items such as royal jelly and beebread, for their young. They protect their home by recognising and repelling intruders. They regularly remove garbage and other refuse from their hive. They control the climate in the hive by fanning the fresh air and sprinkling water during summer and by clustering together for warmth in the winter. When their hives become overcrowded, they are smart enough to know that some have to leave and establish new colonies.
The lowly bees do all this without any outside assistance or direction. They function independently. Yet, super computers require teams of programmers, engineers and technicians. Bees truly are a marvel of Allah’s creation. Is there any doubt why Surah 16 in the Qur’an is called An-Nahl. (Arabic word meaning ‘Bee’).
And your Lord inspired the bee, saying: “Take you habitations in the mountains and in the trees and in what they errect.
“Then, eat of all fruits, and follow the ways of your Lord made easy (for you).” There comes forth from their bellies, a drink of varging colour wherein is healing for men. Verily, in this is indeed a sign for people who think.” (16-68-69).