Animal Cognition

, Volume 15, Issue 6, pp 1195–1203 | Cite as

Interpatch foraging in honeybees—rational decision making at secondary hubs based upon time and motivation

  • Daniel A. Najera
  • Erin L. McCullough
  • Rudolf Jander
Original Paper


For honeybees, Apis mellifera, the hive has been well known to function as a primary decision-making hub, a place from which foragers decide among various directions, distances, and times of day to forage efficiently. Whether foraging honeybees can make similarly complex navigational decisions from locations away from the hive is unknown. To examine whether or not such secondary decision-making hubs exist, we trained bees to forage at four different locations. Specifically, we trained honeybees to first forage to a distal site “CT” 100 m away from the hive; if food was present, they fed and then chose to go home. If food was not present, the honeybees were trained to forage to three auxiliary sites, each at a different time of the day: A in the morning, B at noon, and C in the afternoon. The foragers learned to check site CT for food first and then efficiently depart to the correct location based upon the time of day if there was no food at site CT. Thus, the honeybees were able to cognitively map motivation, time, and five different locations (Hive, CT, A, B, and C) in two spatial dimensions; these are the contents of the cognitive map used by the honeybees here. While at site CT, we verified that the honeybees could choose between 4 different directions (to A, B, C, and the Hive) and thus label it as a secondary decision-making hub. The observed decision making uncovered here is inferred to constitute genuine logical operations, involving a branched structure, based upon the premises of motivational state, and spatiotemporal knowledge.


Honeybee Branching routes Route map Cognitive mapping Conditional logic Decision making 



We thank Dr. Orley Taylor for providing and maintaining the beehives and Dr. M. Tourtellot for developing the program that draws circular histograms. We are indebted to Dhruba Nang for pilot experiments in recording departure bearings of foraging honeybees. Support was provided to Erin McCullough by National Science Foundation—Research Experience for Undergraduates grant #36320.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  • Daniel A. Najera
    • 1
  • Erin L. McCullough
    • 2
  • Rudolf Jander
    • 3
  1. 1.Department of BiologyWashburn UniversityTopekaUSA
  2. 2.Division of Biological SciencesUniversity of MontanaMissoulaUSA
  3. 3.Department of Ecology and Evolutionary BiologyThe University of KansasLawrenceUSA

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