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Flower constancy in honey bee workers (Apis mellifera) depends on ecologically realistic rewards.
Journal of Experimental Biology
As first described by Aristotle, honey bee (Apis mellifera) workers show a strong tendency to visit flowers of only one type during a foraging trip. It is known that workers rapidly learn a flower colour when rewarded with artificial nectar (sucrose solution). However, some previous studies report that the degree of constancy after training is unaffected by reward quantity and quality when bees are tested in an array of artificial flowers of two easily distinguished colours, such as blue and yellow. One possible reason for this surprising result is that large reward volumes were compared. This is likely to mask the abilities of foragers to make adaptive decisions under more realistic conditions. To test this possibility, we offered untrained honey bee workers ecologically relevant rewards (0.5, 1 or 2 μl of 0.5 or 1 mol l(-1) sucrose solution) on one or two consecutive yellow or blue artificial flowers and then recorded which flowers the bees subsequently landed on in an array of 40 empty flowers. The results showed that an increase in all three factors (volume, concentration and number of rewards) significantly increased constancy (proportion of visits to flowers of the trained colour) and persistence (number of flowers visited) during the foraging bout. Constancy for the least rewarding situation was 75.9% compared with 98.6% for the most rewarding situation. These results clearly show that honey bee workers do become more constant to blue or yellow with increasing nectar rewards, provided that the rewards used are ecologically realistic. As the most rewarding conditions led to nearly 100% constancy, further reward increases during training would not have been able to further increase constancy. This explains why previous studies comparing large rewards found no effect of reward on constancy.
UI="D000818">Animals, UI="D001516">Bees, UI="D001522">Behavior, Animal/UI="Q000502">physiology, UI="D003116">Color, UI="D004463">Ecology, UI="D005247">Feeding Behavior/UI="Q000502">physiology, UI="D035264">Flowers, UI="D057048">Plant Nectar, UI="D012201">Reward
Web of science
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