The Anti-Intuitive Visual System of the Honey Bee


Because bees fly around, visit flowers and chase mates, we conclude intuitively that they see things as we do. But their vision is unexpectedly different, so we say it is anti-intuitive. Detailed tests have demonstrated separate detectors for modulation of blue and green receptors, edge orientation (green only), and areas of black. The edge detectors are about 3° across, independent, and not re-assembled to make lines, shapes or textures. Instead, the detectors of each type are summed quantitatively to form cues in each local region with an order of preference for learning the cues. Trained bees remember the positions of the total modulation (preferred), the average edge orientation, areas of black or colour, and positions of hubs of radial and circular edges in each local region, but not the original responses, so the pattern is lost. When presented with a yellow spot on a blue background with no UV reflected, the preferred cue is not the colour, but a measure of the modulation detected by the green and separately by the blue receptors.


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Correspondence to A. Horridge.

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Presented during the 12th ISIN Symposium on Invertebrate Neurobiology, August 31–September 4, 2011, Tihany, Hungary.

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Horridge, A. The Anti-Intuitive Visual System of the Honey Bee. BIOLOGIA FUTURA 63, 20–35 (2012).

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  • Honeybee
  • vision
  • discrimination
  • cues
  • memory