Journal of comparative physiology

, Volume 151, Issue 4, pp 521–543 | Cite as

Landmark learning in bees

Experiments and models
  • B. A. Cartwright
  • T. S. Collett
Article

Summary

  1. 1.

    The experiments described here were undertaken to discover how bees use nearby landmarks to guide their way to a food source. Two major questions are raised. First, what do bees learn about the spatial layout of landmarks and food source? Secondly, how might this information help them reach their destination?

     
  2. 2.

    Single, marked bees were trained to collect sugar solution from a small and inconspicuous reservoir in a room in which extraneous visual cues had been reduced to a minimum. The position of the reservoir was defined by an array of one or more matt black landmarks. After bees had been trained, their flight path was recorded on videotape when the landmarks were present, but the food source absent. During such tests bees spent most of their time searching where the food source should have been.

     
  3. 3.

    Thus, if bees were trained to a reservoir whose position was specified by a single cylindrical landmark and tested with the same landmark, they searched at the expected site of the reservoir. However, when the size of the landmark was changed between training and testing, the area in which bees searched was displaced to one where the landmark appeared roughly the same size as the training landmark when viewed from the reservoir. These experiments suggest that bees learn no more than the apparent size and bearing of the landmark as seen from the food source, and that to return there they move to a position where their retinal image matches their remembered image of the landmark.

     
  4. 4.

    Experiments with more complex arrays of landmarks support the same hypothesis. A simple rule predicts a bee's search area when it is trained to a food source defined by the position of three landmarks and tested either with the same array, or with landmarks of different sizes, or with landmarks placed at different distances from the reservoir. The bee then always searches where the compass bearings of the landmarks on its retina were the same as they had been when it was stationed at the food source.

     
  5. 5.

    Tests with bees trained to either one or three landmarks suggest that the bearings of landmarks on the retina are learnt with respect to external compass bearings. Thus, a single, cylindrical landmark does not define direction. Nonetheless, bees searched in one location and not in a circle centred on the landmark. Bees trained to three landmarks only learnt the site of the reservoir if the array was kept in a constant orientation during training.

     
  6. 6.

    Computer models were devised to discover how bees might use a remembered image of the landmark array to direct their flight path to their destination. The models simulated a situation in which a bee takes a 2-dimensional snapshot of its surroundings from the position it wishes to retrieve and continuously compares this with its current retinal image. It then uses the difference between the two to guide its way. Different models of increasing complexity were explored until one was found which closely mimicked the bee's behaviour.

     

Preview

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

References

  1. Anderson AM (1977) A model for landmark learning in the honeybee. J Comp Physiol 114:335–355Google Scholar
  2. Beusekom Gvan (1948) Some experiments on the optical orientation inPhilanthus triangulum Fabr. Behaviour 1:195–225Google Scholar
  3. Cartwright BA, Collett TS (1979) How honey bees know their distance from a nearby landmark. J Exp Biol 82:367–372Google Scholar
  4. Cartwright BA, Collett TS (1982) How honey bees use landmarks to guide their return to a food source. Nature 295:560–564Google Scholar
  5. Collett TS (1980) Some operating rules for the optomotor system of a hoverfly during voluntary flight. J Comp Physiol 138:271–282Google Scholar
  6. Collett TS, Land MF (1975) Visual spatial memory in a hoverfly. J Comp Physiol 100:59–84Google Scholar
  7. Dyer FC, Gould JL (1981) Honey bee orientation: a backup system for cloudy days. Science 214:1041–1042Google Scholar
  8. Frisch K von (1967) The dance language and orientation of bees. Belknap Press of Harvard University Press, Cambridge, (Massachusetts)/Oxford University Press, LondonGoogle Scholar
  9. Frisch K von, Lindauer M (1954) Himmel und Erde in Konkurrenz bei der Orientierung der Bienen. Naturwissenschaften 41:245–253Google Scholar
  10. Heinrich B (1976) The foraging specialisations of individual bumblebees. Ecol Monogr 46:105–128Google Scholar
  11. Hölldobler B (1980) Canopy orientation: a new kind of orientation in ants. Science 210:86–88Google Scholar
  12. Lindauer M (1960) Time-compensated sun orientation in bees. Cold Spring Harbour Symp Quant Biol 25:371–377Google Scholar
  13. Lindauer M (1961) Communication among social bees. Harvard University Press, Cambridge (Massachusetts)Google Scholar
  14. Markl H (1974) Insect behavior: functions and mechanisms. In: Rockstein M (ed) Physiology of insecta, 2nd edn, vol 3. Academic Press, New York LondonGoogle Scholar
  15. Mobbs PG (1982) The brain of the honeybeeApis mellifera. I. The connections and spatial organisation of the mushroom bodies. Philos Trans R Soc Lond [Biol] 198:309–354Google Scholar
  16. Opfinger E (1931) Über die Orientierung der Biene an der Futterquelle. Z Vergl Physiol 15:431–487Google Scholar
  17. Ribbands CR (1949) The foraging methods of individual honey-bees. J Anim Ecol 18:47–66Google Scholar
  18. Rosse1 S, Wehner R (1982) The bee's map of the e-vector pattern in the sky. Proc Natl Acad Sci USA 79:4451–4455Google Scholar
  19. Tinbergen N (1932) Über die Orientierung des Bienenwolfes (Philanthus triangulum Fabr.). Z Vergl Physiol 16:305–335Google Scholar
  20. Wehner R (1972) Dorsoventral asymmetry in the visual field of the bee,Apis mellifica. J Comp Physiol 77:256–277Google Scholar
  21. Wehner R (1981) Spatial vision in arthropods. In: Autrum H (ed) Handbook of sensory physiology, vol VII/6C. Springer, Berlin Heidelberg New York, pp 287–617Google Scholar
  22. Wehner R, Flatt I (1977) Visual fixation in freely flying bees. Z Naturforsch [C] 32:469–471Google Scholar
  23. Wehner R, Räber F (1979) Visual spatial memory in desert ants,Cataglyphis bicolor (Hymenoptera: Formicidae). Experientia 35:1569–1571Google Scholar
  24. Wehner R, Srinivasan MV (1981) Searching behaviour of desert ants, genusCataglyphis (Formicidae, Hymenoptera). J Comp Physiol 142:315–338Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 1983

Authors and Affiliations

  • B. A. Cartwright
    • 1
  • T. S. Collett
    • 1
  1. 1.School of Biological SciencesUniversity of SussexFalmerEngland

Personalised recommendations