, Volume 185, Issue 1, pp 1-10

Tactile learning and the individual evaluation of the reward in honey bees (Apis mellifera L.)

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Using the proboscis extension response we conditioned pollen and nectar foragers of the honey bee (Apis mellifera L.) to tactile patterns under laboratory conditions. Pollen foragers demonstrated better acquisition, extinction, and reversal learning than nectar foragers. We tested whether the known differences in response thresholds to sucrose between pollen and nectar foragers could explain the observed differences in learning and found that nectar foragers with low response thresholds performed better during acquisition and extinction than ones with higher thresholds. Conditioning pollen and nectar foragers with similar response thresholds did not yield differences in their learning performance. These results suggest that differences in the learning performance of pollen and nectar foragers are a consequence of differences in their perception of sucrose. Furthermore, we analysed the effect which the perception of sucrose reward has on associative learning. Nectar foragers with uniform low response thresholds were conditioned using varying concentrations of sucrose. We found significant positive correlations between the concentrations of the sucrose rewards and the performance during acquisition and extinction. The results are summarised in a model which describes the relationships between learning performance, response threshold to sucrose, concentration of sucrose and the number of rewards.