Honeybees learn floral odors while receiving nectar from foragers within the hive
Recent studies showed that nectar odors brought back by honeybee foragers can be learned associatively inside the hive. In the present study, we focused on the learning abilities of bees, which directly interact via trophallaxis with the incoming nectar foragers: the workers that perform nectar-receiving tasks inside the hive. Workers that have received food directly from foragers coming back from a feeder offering either unscented or scented sugar solution [phenylacetaldehyde (PHE) or nonanal diluted] were captured from two observational hives, and their olfactory memories were tested using the proboscis extension response paradigm. Bees that have received scented solution from incoming foragers showed significantly increased response frequencies for the corresponding solution odor in comparison with those that have received unscented solution. No differences in the response frequencies were found between food odors and colonies. The results indicate that first-order receivers learn via trophallaxis the association between the scent and the sugar solution transferred by incoming foragers. The implications of these results should be considered at three levels: the operational cohesion of bees involved in foraging-related tasks, the information propagation inside the hive related to the floral type exploited, and the putative effect of these memories on future preferences for resources.
KeywordsHoneybees Floral odorants Foragers Phenylacetaldehyde Nonanal
We are indebted to A. Arenas and H. Verna for their technical assistance and to one anonymous referee for the helpful comments on the earlier versions of the manuscript. This study was supported by funds from ANPCYT (01-12319) and the University of Buenos Aires (X 036) to WMF. CG is supported by the VDRB, commission for travel grants of the SANW, Dr. De Giacomi Stiftung, Basler Stiftung für biologische Forschung and Berner Hochschulstiftung. The present study complies with the current laws of the state country in which experiments were performed.
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