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

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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.

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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




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

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Correspondence to Oksana Ostroverkhova.

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

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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.

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Ostroverkhova, O., Galindo, G., Lande, C. et al. Understanding innate preferences of wild bee species: responses to wavelength-dependent selective excitation of blue and green photoreceptor types. J Comp Physiol A 204, 667–675 (2018).

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