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Bombus learning

Théo Robert, Elisa Frasnelli, Thomas S Collett, Natalie Hempel de Ibarra
Female bees and wasps demonstrate, through their performance of elaborate learning flights, when they memorise features of a significant site. An important feature of these flights is that the insects look back to fixate the site that they are leaving. Females, which forage for nectar and pollen and return with it to the nest, execute learning flights on their initial departures from both their nest and newly discovered flowers. To our knowledge, these flights have so far only been studied in females. Here we describe and analyse putative learning flights observed in male bumblebees, Bombus terrestris L...
December 19, 2016: Journal of Experimental Biology
Emma Thompson, Catherine Plowright
Picture-object correspondence provides an alternate method of investigating delayed matching by providing a cue (picture) which may be spontaneously perceived as similar but different from a corresponding target. Memory for, and corresponding choice of, a target corresponding to a cue could be facilitated by the use of a picture. Bumblebees have been found to both easily differentiate images from corresponding objects but also spontaneously perceive a similarity between the two. Herein, an approach was designed to test the possible use of picture cues to signal reward in a delayed matching task...
October 14, 2016: Behavioral Sciences
Joseph L Woodgate, James C Makinson, Ka S Lim, Andrew M Reynolds, Lars Chittka
Insect pollinators such as bumblebees play a vital role in many ecosystems, so it is important to understand their foraging movements on a landscape scale. We used harmonic radar to record the natural foraging behaviour of Bombus terrestris audax workers over their entire foraging career. Every flight ever made outside the nest by four foragers was recorded. Our data reveal where the bees flew and how their behaviour changed with experience, at an unprecedented level of detail. We identified how each bee's flights fit into two categories-which we named exploration and exploitation flights-examining the differences between the two types of flight and how their occurrence changed over the course of the bees' foraging careers...
2016: PloS One
Tan Morgan, Penelope Whitehorn, Gillian C Lye, Mario Vallejo-Marín
Bumblebees demonstrate an extensive capacity for learning complex motor skills to maximise exploitation of floral rewards. This ability is well studied in nectar collection but its role in pollen foraging is less well understood. Floral sonication is used by bees to extract pollen from some plant species with anthers which must be vibrated (buzzed) to release pollen. Pollen removal is determined by sonication characteristics including frequency and amplitude, and thus the ability to optimise sonication should allow bees to maximise the pollen collection...
2016: Journal of Insect Behavior
Aimee S Dunlap, Matthew E Nielsen, Anna Dornhaus, Daniel R Papaj
Many animals, including insects, make decisions using both personally gathered information and social information derived from the behavior of other, usually conspecific, individuals [1]. Moreover, animals adjust use of social versus personal information appropriately under a variety of experimental conditions [2-5]. An important factor in how information is used is the information's reliability, that is, how consistently the information is correlated with something of relevance in the environment [6]. The reliability of information determines which signals should be attended to during communication [6-9], which types of stimuli animals should learn about, and even whether learning should evolve [10, 11]...
May 9, 2016: Current Biology: CB
Erno Kuusela, Juho Lämsä
Human observations during behavioral studies are expensive, time-consuming, and error prone. For this reason, automatization of experiments is highly desirable, as it reduces the risk of human errors and workload. The robotic system we developed is simple and cheap to build and handles feeding and data collection automatically. The system was built using mostly off-the-shelf components and has a novel feeding mechanism that uses servos to perform refill operations. We used the robotic system in two separate behavioral studies with bumblebees (Bombus terrestris): The system was used both for training of the bees and for the experimental data collection...
April 2016: Ecology and Evolution
Saija Piiroinen, Cristina Botías, Elizabeth Nicholls, Dave Goulson
In recent years, many pollinators have declined in abundance and diversity worldwide, presenting a potential threat to agricultural productivity, biodiversity and the functioning of natural ecosystems. One of the most debated factors proposed to be contributing to pollinator declines is exposure to pesticides, particularly neonicotinoids, a widely used class of systemic insecticide. Also, newly emerging parasites and diseases, thought to be spread via contact with managed honeybees, may pose threats to other pollinators such as bumblebees...
2016: PeerJ
Stephan Wolf, Lars Chittka
The learning capacities of males and females may differ with sex-specific behavioural requirements. Bumblebees provide a useful model system to explore how different lifestyles are reflected in learning abilities, because their (female but sterile) workers and males engage in fundamentally different behaviour routines. Bumblebee males, like workers, embark on active flower foraging but in contrast to workers they have to trade off their feeding with mate search, potentially affecting their abilities to learn and utilize floral cues efficiently during foraging...
January 2016: Animal Behaviour
Coline C Jaworski, Christophe Andalo, Christine Raynaud, Valérie Simon, Christophe Thébaud, Jérôme Chave
Understanding how pollinator behavior may influence pollen transmission across floral types is a major challenge, as pollinator decision depends on a complex range of environmental cues and prior experience. Here we report an experiment using the plant Antirrhinum majus and the bumblebee Bombus terrestris to investigate how prior learning experience may affect pollinator preferences between floral types when these are presented together. We trained naive bumblebees to forage freely on flowering individuals of either A...
2015: PloS One
Leonie Lichtenstein, Frank M J Sommerlandt, Johannes Spaethe
More than 100 years ago, Karl von Frisch showed that honeybee workers learn and discriminate colors. Since then, many studies confirmed the color learning capabilities of females from various hymenopteran species. Yet, little is known about visual learning and memory in males despite the fact that in most bee species males must take care of their own needs and must find rewarding flowers to obtain food. Here we used the proboscis extension response (PER) paradigm to study the color learning capacities of workers and drones of the bumblebee, Bombus terrestris...
2015: PloS One
Fabian A Ruedenauer, Johannes Spaethe, Sara D Leonhardt
In view of the ongoing pollinator decline, the role of nutrition in bee health has received increasing attention. Bees obtain fat, carbohydrates and protein from pollen and nectar. As both excessive and deficient amounts of these macronutrients are detrimental, bees would benefit from assessing food quality to guarantee an optimal nutrient supply. While bees can detect sucrose and use it to assess nectar quality, it is unknown whether they can assess the macronutrient content of pollen. Previous studies have shown that bees preferentially collect pollen of higher protein content, suggesting that differences in pollen quality can be detected either by individual bees or via feedback from larvae...
July 2015: Journal of Experimental Biology
Hamida B Mirwan, Peter G Kevan
We trained worker bumblebees to discriminate arrays of artificial nectaries (one, two, and three microcentrifuge tubes inserted into artificial flowers) from which they could forage in association with their location in a three-compartmental maze. Additionally, we challenged bees to learn to accomplish three different tasks in a fixed sequence during foraging. To enter the main three-compartmented foraging arena, they had first to slide open doors in an entry box to be able to proceed to an artificial flower patch in the main arena where they had to lift covers to the artificial nectaries from which they then fed...
September 2015: Animal Cognition
Marcel Mertes, Laura Dittmar, Martin Egelhaaf, Norbert Boeddeker
Bees use visual memories to find the spatial location of previously learnt food sites. Characteristic learning flights help acquiring these memories at newly discovered foraging locations where landmarks-salient objects in the vicinity of the goal location-can play an important role in guiding the animal's homing behavior. Although behavioral experiments have shown that bees can use a variety of visual cues to distinguish objects as landmarks, the question of how landmark features are encoded by the visual system is still open...
2014: Frontiers in Behavioral Neuroscience
James J Foster, Camilla R Sharkey, Alicia V A Gaworska, Nicholas W Roberts, Heather M Whitney, Julian C Partridge
Foraging insect pollinators such as bees must find and identify flowers in a complex visual environment. Bees use skylight polarization patterns for navigation, a capacity mediated by the polarization-sensitive dorsal rim area (DRA) of their eye. While other insects use polarization sensitivity to identify appropriate habitats, oviposition sites, and food sources, to date no nonnavigational functions of polarization vision have been identified in bees. Here we investigated the ability of bumblebees (Bombus terrestris) to learn polarization patterns on artificial "flowers" in order to obtain a food reward...
June 16, 2014: Current Biology: CB
Lisa J Evans, Nigel E Raine
If the cognitive performance of animals reflects their particular ecological requirements, how can we explain appreciable variation in learning ability amongst closely related individuals (e.g. foraging workers within a bumble bee colony)? One possibility is that apparent 'errors' in a learning task actually represent an alternative foraging strategy. In this study we investigate the potential relationship between foraging 'errors' and foraging success among bumble bee (Bombus terrestris) workers. Individual foragers were trained to choose yellow, rewarded flowers and ignore blue, unrewarded flowers...
June 2014: Journal of Comparative Physiology. A, Neuroethology, Sensory, Neural, and Behavioral Physiology
Lisa J Evans, Nigel E Raine
Organisation in eusocial insect colonies emerges from the decisions and actions of its individual members. In turn, these decisions and actions are influenced by the individual's behaviour (or temperament). Although there is variation in the behaviour of individuals within a colony, we know surprisingly little about how (or indeed if) the types of behaviour present in a colony change over time. Here, for the first time, we assessed potential changes in the behavioural type of foragers during colony development...
2014: PloS One
Hamida B Mirwan, Peter G Kevan
During foraging, worker bumblebees are challenged by simple to complex tasks. Our goal was to determine whether bumblebees could successfully accomplish tasks that are more complex than those they would naturally encounter. Once the initial training to successfully manipulate a simple, artificial flower was completed, the bees were either challenged with a series of increasingly difficult tasks or with the most difficult task without the opportunity for prior learning. The first experiment demonstrated that the bees learned to slide or lift caps that prevented their access to the reinforcer sugar solution through a series of tasks with increasing complexity: moving one cap either to the right or to the left, or lifting it up...
September 2014: Animal Cognition
M A Fürst, D P McMahon, J L Osborne, R J Paxton, M J F Brown
Emerging infectious diseases (EIDs) pose a risk to human welfare, both directly and indirectly, by affecting managed livestock and wildlife that provide valuable resources and ecosystem services, such as the pollination of crops. Honeybees (Apis mellifera), the prevailing managed insect crop pollinator, suffer from a range of emerging and exotic high-impact pathogens, and population maintenance requires active management by beekeepers to control them. Wild pollinators such as bumblebees (Bombus spp.) are in global decline, one cause of which may be pathogen spillover from managed pollinators like honeybees or commercial colonies of bumblebees...
February 20, 2014: Nature
Emma L Thompson, Catherine M S Plowright
Studies of bee cognition frequently use two-dimensional stimuli referred to as floral patterns, and yet how bees perceive pictorial representations is not known. An investigation of bumblebee (Bombus impatiens) picture-object correspondence was undertaken according to the theory of Fagot et al. (Picture perception in animals. Psychology Press Ltd, East Sussex, pp 295-320, 2000) that pictures and objects may be confused, perceived as independent or equivalent. In three experiments, bumblebees were given discrimination training and unrewarded testing in a radial maze...
September 2014: Animal Cognition
Erin Jo Tiedeken, Jane C Stout, Philip C Stevenson, Geraldine A Wright
Bees visit flowers to collect nectar and pollen that contain nutrients and simultaneously facilitate plant sexual reproduction. Paradoxically, nectar produced to attract pollinators often contains deterrent or toxic plant compounds associated with herbivore defence. The functional significance of these nectar toxins is not fully understood, but they may have a negative impact on pollinator behaviour and health, and, ultimately, plant pollination. This study investigates whether a generalist bumblebee, Bombus terrestris, can detect naturally occurring concentrations of nectar toxins...
May 1, 2014: Journal of Experimental Biology
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