, Volume 178, Issue 5, pp 699-709

Detection of coloured stimuli by honeybees: minimum visual angles and receptor specific contrasts

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Abstract

Honeybees Apis mellifera were trained to distinguish between the presence and the absence of a rewarded coloured spot, presented on a vertical, achromatic plane in a Y-maze. They were subsequently tested with different subtended visual angles of that spot, generated by different disk diameters and different distances from the decision point in the device. Bees were trained easily to detect bee-chromatic colours, but not an achromatic one. Chromatic contrast was not the only parameter allowing learning and, therefore, detection: α min, the subtended visual angle at which the bees detect a given stimulus with a probability P 0 = 0.6, was 5° for stimuli presenting both chromatic contrast and contrast for the green photoreceptors [i.e. excitation difference in the green photoreceptors, between target and background (green contrast)], and 15° for stimuli presenting chromatic but no green contrast. Our results suggest that green contrast can be utilized for target detection if target recognition has been established by means of the colour vision system. The green-contrast signal would be used as a far-distance signal for flower detection. This signal would always be detected before chromatic contrast during an approach flight and would be learned in compound with chromatic contrast, in a facilitation-like process.