ORIGINAL PAPER

Naturwissenschaften

, Volume 97, Issue 2, pp 153-160

First online:

Africanized honeybees are slower learners than their European counterparts

  • Margaret J. CouvillonAffiliated withDepartment of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, University of ArizonaArizona Research Laboratories, Division of Neurobiology, University of Arizona Email author 
  • , Gloria DeGrandi-HoffmanAffiliated withCarl Hayden Bee Research Center, USDA-ARS
  • , Wulfila GronenbergAffiliated withArizona Research Laboratories, Division of Neurobiology, University of Arizona

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Abstract

Does cognitive ability always correlate with a positive fitness consequence? Previous research in both vertebrates and invertebrates provides mixed results. Here, we compare the learning and memory abilities of Africanized honeybees (Apis mellifera scutellata hybrid) and European honeybees (Apis mellifera ligustica). The range of the Africanized honeybee continues to expand, superseding the European honeybee, which led us to hypothesize that they might possess greater cognitive capabilities as revealed by a classical conditioning assay. Surprisingly, we found that fewer Africanized honeybees learn to associate an odor with a reward. Additionally, fewer Africanized honeybees remembered the association a day later. While Africanized honeybees are replacing European honeybees, our results show that they do so despite displaying a relatively poorer performance on an associative learning paradigm.

Keywords

Apis mellifera Africanized honeybees Associative learning Proboscis extension response