, Volume 3, Issue 4, pp 323-336

Linking of learning signals in honeybee orientation

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  1. Honeybees link time, color, and scent together when these signals are simultaneously presented in training.

  2. Presenting time and color, or time and scent, as constant signal combinations in training results in very precise orientation. When either one of the combined signals is varied, orientation by the other signal deteriorates. Varying time causes deterioration in both scent and color orientation. Conversely, time orientation is disturbed by varying color or varying scent.

  3. Scent orientation is most precise when its combination with color and time is constant throughout training and testing. Scent orientation is reduced by 36% when the combined color is different in training and testing. In addition, a different time signal in training and testing reduces scent orientation by another 9%.

  4. The tightness of linking between pairs of signals differs for different signal combinations. Time and color as well as color and scent form very close ties. The linking between time and scent seems to be weaker. The hypothesis is introduced that these differences reflect the order in which the signals are used in the bee's orientation to flowers.

  5. Ecological significance, prior related findings, and general learning theories are discussed in light of these findings. Linking of learning signals is apparently adaptive when orienting with cues that occur in specific combinations. Linking of learning signals may be the mechanism of forming a ‘Gestalt.’