For our bumblebees, it seems being smart comes at a cost.

Odd findings just published by Kiwi, UK and Canadian researchers show that bumblebees that learn faster have a much shorter foraging lifespan than their slow-learning co-workers.

They also found that the fast-learning bumblebees collected food at rates comparable to the less cognitively able in the colony and completed a similar number of foraging bouts per day.

"Our results are surprising, because we typically associate enhanced learning performance and cognitive ability with improved fitness, because it is considered beneficial to the survival of an individual or group," said study co-author Dr Lisa Evans, of New Zealand's Plant and Food Research.
"This study provides the first evidence of a learning-associated cost in the wild."

The researchers evaluated the visual learning performance of 85 individual foraging bumblebees across five different colonies - subjecting them to an ecologically realistic colour and reward association task in the laboratory and then monitoring their performance in the wild using radio frequency identification tagging technology.