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Do inexperienced bumblebee foragers use scent marks as social information?

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Abstract

Bumblebees (Bombus spp.) foraging in the field typically reject flowers where they detect the olfactory footprints of previous visitors and hence avoid recently emptied inflorescences. A growing number of studies have begun to illustrate that associative learning shapes the development of this process, in both bumblebees and other bee species. This raises the question of what the default response to such marks is, but little is known about how inexperienced foragers use social information. Here, we offered flower-naive bees a choice between scent-marked flowers and unmarked alternatives and found that individuals neither avoided nor preferred marked flowers. Our findings provide no support for ‘hard-wired’ responses to scent marks in bumblebees and highlight the importance of associative learning in shaping social information use to match local circumstances.

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Acknowledgments

We thank Syngenta Bioline Bees, Weert, the Netherlands for kindly providing research bees for free.

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Correspondence to Ellouise Leadbeater.

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Leadbeater, E., Chittka, L. Do inexperienced bumblebee foragers use scent marks as social information?. Anim Cogn 14, 915–919 (2011). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10071-011-0423-4

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