Tool use was originally thought to be uniquely human, although it has since been reported in primates, marine mammals and birds. Now, Olli Loukola and colleagues of Queen Mary University in London have found that bees also use tools. The team trained bees to know a “correct” location for a small ball, after which the bees were able to move a ball to the correct location to obtain a sucrose-solution reward. The bees learnt better from watching a live or model demonstrator than from a “ghost demonstrator” in the form of a magnet moving the ball, the results showed. The creatures also knew that in cases where more than one ball was present they had to move the closest one, even if it was a different colour, indicating an unprecedented neural flexibility. Apparently, novel behaviour in simple animals can emerge quickly in response to environmental pressures.