Bee with a tiny yellow ballIida Loukola

Bees can play football and score goals

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It's long been thought the bee is a clever little blighter...

They're the only insects we get food from.

They can lift way more than their non-flying friend the ant.

Bee on a purple flowerGetty

And then there's the waggle dance- the merry jig that honey bees do for their nestmates to show them where the best source of food is. Depending on the direction they dance in and how long it lasts, their mates can work out where the grub is!

Well now, a species of bumblebee is proving that, despite "having a brain the size of a poppy seed," they can also play football...

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The bees surprised scientists at Queen Mary, University of London, by working out how to use a novel tool to obtain a sugary treat simply by watching how it was done.

Buff-tailed bumblebees witnessed a trained bee roll a ball to a goal.

They were then "brought on" for their chance of glory and quickly started scoring.

Most even realised they could use a ball closer to the goal too.

Bee on flowergetty

The research builds on previous experiments from the same lab, which taught bees to tug a string to get a reward.

The learning abilities of animals without big vertebrate brains often get severely underestimated, joint lead author Dr Olli J Loukola says. "The idea that small brains constrain insects is kind of wrong, or old-fashioned."

“Insects continually surprise us with how smart they are, and this is another really cool chapter in that story,” says Margaret Couvillon, a bee researcher at Virginia Tech who was not involved with the study.

We know what you're thinking - can we see a bee five-a-side in the future?

Cartoon bee playing footballThink

Dr Loukola says he could certainly train some to score on one side of an arena and some on the opposite side. Then he might be able to study whether bumblebees could share a ball.

So, watch this space!

Update: This article was edited on 9 March 2017 to reflect the fact that it is the honey bee that performs the waggle dance, not the bumblebee as previously stated.