Tactile Antennal Learning in the Honey Bee

  • Joachim Erber


The different forms of tactile antennal learning in the honey bee are based on operant activity of the antennae. Flexible motor programs of the antennae are used for monitoring multimodal signals in the space around the head.

Bees can learn the three-dimensional location of an object within the reach of the antennae by touching it frequently. During operant conditioning bees learn that antennal contacts with an object lead to a sucrose reward. Operant antennal conditioning is side specific and bees learn to discriminate between different objects. Operant antennal conditioning can be reduced to conditioning of the activity of the fast flagellum flexor muscle (FFF muscle) which is innervated by a single motoneuron.

Using the proboscis extension reflex (PER) bees can be conditioned to discriminate between different surface structures, forms, sizes and locations of objects. The characteristics of PER conditioning are similar to those of olfactory PER conditioning under laboratory conditions. Mechanoreceptors on the antennal tip are used for surface discrimination. Bees that discriminate between different surface structures show characteristic antennal scanning movements.


Operant Conditioning Proboscis Extension Response Sucrose Reward Proboscis Extension Response Antennal Contact 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.



Antennal-mechanosensory motor center


Mushroom bodies


Proboscis extension reflex


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© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Institut für ÖkologieTechnische Universität BerlinBerlinGermany

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