, Volume 63, Issue 1, pp 11-22

One day is all it takes: circadian modulation of the retrieval of colour memories in honeybees

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Abstract

In this study, we examined how honeybees coped with successive tasks of colour discrimination with conflicting demands. Free-flying honeybees (Apis mellifera) were trained on tasks in which they had to choose one of three colours to obtain a reward of sugar water. In acquisition, the bees learned this task in about four trials of training. Colour memory was retained after 24-h delay in an unrewarded retention test. Integration experiments were then conducted in which the bees had to learn two successive tasks of colour discrimination with conflicting demands, task 1 for 20 trials and task 2 for ten trials. In task 1, one of three colours provided sugar water while the other two provided tap water, while in task 2 a different colour provided the reward. The bees were given unrewarded tests immediately after training on task 2 and then re-tested after 10 min, 22 h (circadian time of the start of task 1 training), or 24 h (circadian time of the end of task 2 training). Bees strongly preferred the rewarded colour for task 2 on immediate testing and after 10-min delay. After 22-h delay, they switched their preference to the rewarded colour for task 1. But after 24-h delay, the bees again strongly preferred the rewarded colour for task 2. Further tests at a number of delays between 0 and 22 h revealed a sigmoidal pattern of rise in the preference for the task 1 colour. We conclude that circadian time modulates the retrieval of colour memories in honeybees, even when all the training took place in a single day.

Communicated by M. Giurfa