Journal of Comparative Physiology A

, Volume 204, Issue 7, pp 667–675 | Cite as

Understanding innate preferences of wild bee species: responses to wavelength-dependent selective excitation of blue and green photoreceptor types

  • Oksana OstroverkhovaEmail author
  • Gracie Galindo
  • Claire Lande
  • Julie Kirby
  • Melissa Scherr
  • George Hoffman
  • Sujaya Rao
Original Paper


Bees have a trichromatic vision with ultraviolet, blue, and green photoreceptors in their compound eyes. While the three photoreceptor types comprise the ‘color space’ at the perceptual level, preferential excitation of one or two of the photoreceptor types has been shown to play an important role in innate color preferences of bumble bees. Bees have been shown to exhibit strong attraction to fluorescence emission exclusively in the blue spectral region. It is not known if emission exclusively in the green spectral region produces similar attraction. Here, we examined responses of wild bees to traps designed to selectively stimulate either the blue or the green photoreceptor using sunlight-induced fluorescence in the 420–480 or 510–540 nm region, respectively. Additionally, we probed how subtle changes in the spectral characteristics of the traps affect the bee captures once a highly selective excitation of the blue photoreceptor is achieved. It was established that selective excitation of the green photoreceptor type was not attractive, in contrast to that of the blue photoreceptor type. However, once a highly selective excitation of the blue photoreceptor type (at ~ 400–480 nm) was achieved, the wild bees favored strong excitation at 430–480 nm over that in the 400–420 nm region.


Wild bees Bee vision Innate behavior Fluorescence Selective receptor excitation 



Blue fluorescent


Clear non-fluorescent


Clear blue fluorescent


Green fluorescent


Green non-fluorescent


Purple trap I fluorescent


Purple trap I non-fluorescent


Blue trap J fluorescent


Blue trap J non-fluorescent


Blue trap K fluorescent


Blue trap K non-fluorescent





We thank the farmers for permitting the study on their farms. Funding from Agricultural Research Foundation and Oregon State University is acknowledged.

Compliance with ethical standards

Conflict of interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.

Ethical standard

The ethical standards of the experiments comply with the current laws of the country in which they were performed.

Animal care

Animal care standards comply with the current laws of the country in which they were performed. Reports of animal experiments must state that the “Principles of laboratory animal care” (NIH publication no. 85-23 revised 1985) were followed as well as specific national laws (e.g. the current version of the German Law on the Protection of Animals) where applicable.

Supplementary material

359_2018_1269_MOESM1_ESM.pdf (429 kb)
Supplementary material 1 (PDF 429 KB)


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag GmbH Germany, part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of PhysicsOregon State UniversityCorvallisUSA
  2. 2.Department of Crop and Soil ScienceOregon State UniversityCorvallisUSA
  3. 3.Department of EntomologyUniversity of MinnesotaSaint PaulUSA

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