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Persistence to unrewarding feeding locations by honeybee Foragers (Apis mellifera): the effects of experience, resource profitability and season
Honeybee foragers that find a profitable food source quickly establish spatiotemporal memories, which allow them to return to this foraging site on subsequent days. The aim of this study was to investigate how the previous experience of honeybee foragers at a feeding location affects their persistence at that location once food is no longer available. We hypothesised that persistence would be greater to locations that were more rewarding (closer to the hive, higher concentration of sucrose solution), for which a bee had greater prior experience (0.5-h vs. 2-h training access), and at times of the year of lower nectar availability in the environment. We studied individually marked worker bees from four colonies trained to sucrose-solution feeders. Our results support most of these predictions. Persistence, measured both in duration and number of visits, was greater to locations that previously offered sucrose solution of higher concentration (2m vs. 1m) or were closer to the hive (20m vs. 450m). Persistence was also greater in bees that had longer access at the feeder before the syrup was terminated (2h vs. 0.5h). However, contrary to our prediction, persistence was not higher in the season of the lowest nectar availability in the environment in the study year. In summary, honeybees show considerable persistence at foraging sites that ceased providing rewards. The decision to abandon a foraging site depends on the profitability the forager experienced when the foraging site was still rewarding.
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