Floral odor learning within the hive affects honeybees’ foraging decisions
Honeybees learn odor cues quickly and efficiently when visiting rewarding flowers. Memorization of these cues facilitates the localization and recognition of food sources during foraging flights. Bees can also use information gained inside the hive during social interactions with successful foragers. An important information cue that can be learned during these interactions is food odor. However, little is known about how floral odors learned in the hive affect later decisions of foragers in the field. We studied the effect of food scent on foraging preferences when this learning is acquired directly inside the hive. By using in-hive feeders that were removed 24 h before the test, we showed that foragers use the odor information acquired during a 3-day stimulation period with a scented solution during a food-choice situation outside the nest. This bias in food preference is maintained even 24 h after the replacement of all the hive combs. Thus, without being previously collected outside by foragers, food odors learned within the hive can be used during short-range foraging flights. Moreover, correct landings at a dual-choice device after replacing the storing combs suggests that long-term memories formed within the colony can be retrieved while bees search for food in the field.
KeywordsApis mellifera Associative learning Olfactory experiences Information transfer Foraging choice
We are indebted to C. Grüter and R. Josens for their valuable comments and suggestions on an early version of this manuscript. We thank also C. Grüter for helping us with the English and G. Ramirez and H. Verna for technical assistance. This study was supported by funds from Agencia Nacional de Promoción Científica y Tecnológica (01-12319), Consejo Nacional de Investigaciones Científicas y Técnicas (02049), and the University of Buenos Aires (X 036) to WMF. We declare that our experiments comply with the current laws of the country in which they were performed.
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