Behavioral Ecology and Sociobiology

, Volume 57, Issue 6, pp 599–610 | Cite as

Analysis of bumblebee visitation sequences within single bouts: implication of the overstrike effect on short-term memory

  • Hiroshi S. IshiiEmail author
Original Article


Pollinators whose foraging habitats consist of several plant types (species or morph) may continue to choose the plant type last visited because information about the type of plant last visited dominates over all other memory contents, in particular of short-term memory. In this study, I extracted this overstrike effect on the plant choices of pollinators by analyzing patterns of visitation sequences within a single round-trip between the hive and foraging patch (bout). First, I simulated the visitation sequences within single bouts with a model to show how factors, including the bees’ plant-type preferences, the arrangement of plants and the effect of overstrike on short-term memory, affect visitation sequences. Here, bees are assumed to forage in a patch consisting of two plant types (H and L). The model predicts that only the effect of overstrike on short-term memory causes assorted visitation sequences according to plant type (within-bout flower constancy). That is, if the overstrike-effect on short-term memory is the primary determinant of plant choice, then bees will fly to a type-L plant after visiting a type-L plant even if they predominantly visit type-H plants and vice versa. Next, I investigated individual bumblebees’ visitation sequences at a patch of artificial inflorescences with a set-up similar to that assumed in the model. Two types of inflorescences were arranged on a Cartesian grid. Assorted visitation sequences according to inflorescence type were observed, depending on the distances among inflorescences. This result supports the hypotheses that bees fly to the same plant type as that last visited because short-term memory is displaced (overstruck) with information about the most recently visited plant type.


Bumblebee Constant flight Flower constancy Short-term memory Visitation sequence 



I thank G. Kudo for his guidance in planning and fruitful discussion of this study; S. Sakai for his critical comments on the manuscript; and T. Kubo for his assistance in simulating the model. I also acknowledge the advice of M. Yoneda on keeping bumblebee colonies; the assistance of T. Osawa, H. Kamauch, S. Kosuge, K. Mori, T. Tani, and A.M. Ishii in collecting the data; and the support of T.Y. Ida throughout this study. This study was in part supported by a fellowship (no. 0124) of JSPS for the Promotion of Science for Young Scientists. The experiment complies with the laws of Japan, the country in which it was performed.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2005

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Graduate School of Environmental Earth ScienceHokkaido UniversitySapporo Japan

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