Learning Performance of Foraging Bees During Manipulation of Inter-Visit Time Intervals

Tamar Keasar, Inbal Fershtman, Rivka Forotan & Avi Shmida

It has been repeatedly suggested that bees use short-term information for making food-choice decisions. According to this hypothesis, the elimination of such information should reduce bees' performance in learning tasks. Naive bumblebees, foraging on differentially-rewarding artificial flowers, were exposed to either 1.5 s or 15 s of darkness between foraging visits. These treatments were intended to diminish the amount of short-term information for the bees' next foraging choice. The bees' flower choices were compared to the choices of untreated controls. Control-treatment bees chose rewarding flowers significantly more often then short-darkness (1.5 s) bees. Shifts between flowers of different colors were more frequent during long inter-visit intervals than during short inter-visit intervals in the control treatment, but not in the darkness treatments. The results suggest that short-term experience, when available, improves the choice performance of bees. However, possible effects of darkness itself on decision-making were not controlled for, and require further study.

June, 1998
Published in: 
Entomologia Generalis 29 (2007), 213-224