Tactile learning in the honeybee
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Free-flying bees were conditioned on a vertical wall to a vertical tactile pattern consisting of parallel lines of grooves and elevations. The asymptote of the learning curve is reached after approximately 25 rewards. Bees can discriminate the conditioned vertical pattern from a horizontal or diagonal alternative. Angle discrimination is apparent only for relatively coarse tactile cues. The proboscis extension response of fixed bees was used to condition bees to a vertical tactile pattern which was presented to the antennae. The learning curve reaches an asymptote after 4 rewards. After 7 unrewarded extinction trials the conditioned responses are reduced to 50%. Bees show best discrimination for patterns whose edges they can scan with their antennae. The animals show a high degree of generalization by responding to an object irrespective of the trained pattern. Under laboratory conditions fixed bees can discriminate the angles and spatial wavelengths of fine tactile patterns consisting of parallel grooves. Bees can also discriminate forms and sizes of tactile patterns. They do not discriminate between different types of edges and between positive and negative forms.
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