, Volume 190, Issue 9, pp 727-733
Date: 05 Jun 2004

Responsiveness to sucrose and habituation of the proboscis extension response in honey bees

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In honey bees, complex behaviours such as associative learning correlate with responsiveness to sucrose. In these behaviours, the subjective evaluation of a sucrose stimulus influences the behavioural performance. Habituation is a well-known form of non-associative learning. In bees, the proboscis extension response can be habituated by repeatedly stimulating the antennae with a low sucrose concentration. A high sucrose concentration can dishabituate the response. This study tests whether habituation correlates with responsiveness to sucrose in bees of different behavioural states and in bees which are habituated with different sucrose concentrations. Habituation and dishabituation in newly emerged bees, 5-day-old bees and foragers strongly correlated with responsiveness to sucrose. Bees with high responsiveness to sucrose displayed a lower degree of habituation and showed greater dishabituation than bees with low responsiveness. The degree of habituation and dishabituation also depended on the concentration of the habituation stimulus. These experiments demonstrate for the first time in a non-associative learning paradigm that the subjective strength of a sucrose stimulus determines the behavioural performance. Non-associative learning shares this property with associative learning, which suggests that the two processes might rely on similar neural mechanisms.