, Volume 195, Issue 8, pp 759-768

Volatile exposure within the honeybee hive and its effect on olfactory discrimination

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Abstract

Honeybees of different ages and reproductive castes cohabit in the hive where they are exposed to many odors that might affect associative learning. Our aim was to analyze the role of odors pre-exposed as volatiles on appetitive learning in honeybees of different ages and search for their long-term effect both under natural and laboratory conditions. By evaluating memory acquisition and retention through a differential proboscis extension response conditioning, we found that hive-exposed odors offered as a reinforced conditioned stimulus during training promoted a learning-reduced effect [latent inhibition (LI)]. On the other hand, no effect was found when the non-reinforced conditioned stimulus was pre-exposed. The LI effect varied with the odor identity. However, only slight differences were found with the age of the bees. Exposure-conditioning intervals longer than 24 h did not show an LI effect unless the odor concentration was increased or exposure was prolonged. Our results show that pre-exposed volatiles could either reduce learning performance, if this odor is later associated with food, or be irrelevant in the case that alternative scented resources circulate within the colony. The differential effects found according to the olfactory exposure characteristics could strongly influence the propagation of chemosensory information within the hive.