, Volume 97, Issue 2, pp 229–233 | Cite as

Bees use three-dimensional information to improve target detection

  • Alexander Kapustjansky
  • Lars Chittka
  • Johannes SpaetheEmail author


Bumblebee detection of a flat circular disc (two-dimensional (2D) presentation) and a disc which was presented 10 cm in front of a structured background (and thus provided three-dimensional (3D) cues) was compared. A dual choice test using a Y-maze apparatus was conducted to estimate the minimum visual angle at which the bees were able to detect the disc. At large visual angles of 15, 10 and 5° bees’ performance between the 2D and the 3D presentation did not differ. However, when the disc subtended 3° at the bee’s eye, the bees performed significantly better when 3D information was available. Overall, bees were able to detect a target subtending a 40% smaller visual angle when it was presented in front of the structured background compared to a 2D presentation. This suggests that previous reports on the limits of target detection in bees using flat stimuli might have underestimated the bees’ ability to locate small flowers under natural conditions. Bees use motion parallax, i.e. the apparent relative motion of a stationary object against a background, for perceiving the third dimension. Our data suggest that bumblebees can integrate information from at least two types of feature detectors, motion and area, to improve single target detection.


Bombus terrestris Flower detection Motion parallax Visual perception 3D vision 



We thank two anonymous reviewers for their helpful comments on an earlier version of the manuscript.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2009

Authors and Affiliations

  • Alexander Kapustjansky
    • 1
    • 2
  • Lars Chittka
    • 3
  • Johannes Spaethe
    • 1
    Email author
  1. 1.Department of Evolutionary BiologyUniversity of ViennaViennaAustria
  2. 2.Lehrstuhl für Genetik und NeurobiologieUniversity of WürzburgWürzburgGermany
  3. 3.Research Centre for Psychology, School of Biological and Chemical SciencesQueen Mary University of LondonLondonUK

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