Behavioral Ecology and Sociobiology

, Volume 66, Issue 2, pp 275–286 | Cite as

An integrated look at decision-making in bees as they abandon a depleted food source

Original Paper

Abstract

While there has been considerable research on the behavioral processes that underlie animals’ ability respond to shifting rewards, it remains unclear how animals coordinate multiple processes over time. To investigate this, we compared the behavior of honeybees (Apis mellifera) and bumblebees (Bombus impatiens), in an open-ended search task. Bees were given brief access to a high-quality food source, which then became non-rewarding. Then, over an extended period, we examined (1) bees’ tendency to persist at the depleted site, (2) their tendency to return to a different low-quality food source where they had been foraging previously, (3) their tendency to return to the hive, and (4) how previous reward history influenced their tendency to shift among these options. Compared to bumblebees, honeybees were much slower to abandon the depleted site and were much more likely to make trips to the hive while bumblebees were much more likely to return to the familiar low-quality site. These observed species differences are interpreted in terms of evolved individual and social differences between these species. We show evidence of well-studied behavioral processes such as extinction, negative contrast effects, and reliance on a social group, and provide, for the first time, a picture of how these processes interact with one another as part of a common sequential decision-making process.

Keywords

Foraging behavior Honeybees Bumblebees Sequential decision-making Extinction Negative contrast effects 

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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2011

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of ZoologyMichigan State UniversityEast LansingUSA

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