Preferences and tradeoffs in nectar temperature and nectar concentration in the Asian hive bee Apis cerana
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- Tan, K., Latty, T., Hu, Z. et al. Behav Ecol Sociobiol (2014) 68: 13. doi:10.1007/s00265-013-1617-3
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Honey bee foragers need to asses and make trade-offs between a number of potentially conflicting floral attributes. Here, we investigate multi-attribute decision making in the eastern honey bee, Apis cerana, when foraging on food sources that varied in warmth and sucrose concentration. We show that foragers prefer warm (30 °C) sucrose solution over cool (10 °C) sucrose solution and concentrated (30 % w/w) sucrose solution over dilute (15 % w/w) sucrose solution. When we offered the preferred sucrose concentration (30 % w/w) at the less-preferred temperature (10 °C), and the less-preferred sucrose concentration (15 % w/w) at the preferred temperature (30 °C), foragers prioritized warmth by choosing the warmer, but lower concentration solution. When the temperature difference was less extreme, bees preferred more concentrated cooler syrup (30 % ww at 15 °C over 15 % 30 °C). However, the addition of a decoy item to the choice set had a significant effect on the bees' preferences. Our results highlight the critical importance of considering context effects when measuring the foraging preferences of animals.