Journal of Comparative Physiology A

, Volume 190, Issue 9, pp 759–763 | Cite as

Bumblebees (Bombus terrestris) sacrifice foraging speed to solve difficult colour discrimination tasks

Rapid Communication


The performance of individual bumblebees at colour discrimination tasks was tested in a controlled laboratory environment. Bees were trained to discriminate between rewarded target colours and differently coloured distractors, and then tested in non-rewarded foraging bouts. For the discrimination of large colour distances bees made relatively fast decisions and selected target colours with a high degree of accuracy, but for the discrimination of smaller colour distances the accuracy decreased and the bees response times to find correct flowers significantly increased. For small colour distances there was also significant linear correlations between accuracy and response time for the individual bees. The results show both between task and within task speed-accuracy tradeoffs in bees, which suggests the possibility of a sophisticated and dynamic decision-making process.


Colour vision Flower learning Insect vision Response time Speed-accuracy tradeoff 



We thank Professor W.R.A. Muntz, Dr. L.L. Muir and two anonymous referees for their comments on the manuscript. A.G. Dyer is grateful for support from the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2004

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Zoologie II, BiozentrumUniversität WürzburgWürzburgGermany
  2. 2.School of Biological Sciences, Queen MaryUniversity of LondonLondonUK
  3. 3.School of Orthoptics, Faculty of Health SciencesLa Trobe UniversityBundooraAustralia

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