Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Bumblebee See, Bumblebee Do

Date:
September 1, 2005
Source:
University of Arizona
Summary:
Just as travelers figure out which restaurant is good by the numbers of cars in the parking lot, bumblebees decide which flowers to visit by seeing which ones already have bee visitors. The finding is the first demonstration that insects can learn by just watching the behavior of other insects.

A live Bombus impatiens bumblebee (left) feeds at a cotton wick soaked with sugar water that protrudes from an artificial flower. The bumblebee model on the right is positioned to simulate a feeding bee.
Credit: Photo credit: Brad Worden

Just as travelers figure out which restaurant is good bythe numbers of cars in the parking lot, bumblebees decide which flowersto visit by seeing which ones already have bee visitors.

Related Articles


Bumblebeesthat watched other bees forage on green artificial flowers were twiceas likely to choose the green flowers over orange flowers when it wastheir turn to forage, according to new research.

The finding is the first demonstration that insects can learn by just watching the behavior of other insects.

"Studyinga variety of different animals -- everything from chimpanzees to bees-- that show some kind of social learning, will give us a betterunderstanding of how social learning occurs," said behavioral ecologistBradley D. Worden of The University of Arizona in Tucson. "One of thecool things we're finding out from bees is that complex behavior andadvanced forms of learning can come from small brains."

Worden, apostdoctoral research associate in UA's department of ecology andevolutionary biology, conducted his work on the brainy bees with DanielR. Papaj, a UA professor of ecology and evolutionary biology. Theteam's report has been released online and will be published in anupcoming issue of Biology Letters of the Royal Society. The NationalScience Foundation funded the research.

Charles Darwin was oneinspiration for the study because he wrote about the possibility thathoneybees were watching and learning from bumblebees, Worden said.

While observing bumblebees in the field, Worden, too, got the impression that bees were copying the behavior of other bees.

"Honeybeesand bumblebees are social creatures -- they live in these colonies,"Worden said. "We know that they communicate with one another, at leastin the nest, but nobody had really studied whether outside the nestthey're paying attention to what other individuals are doing." SoWorden and Papaj designed experiments to test whether Darwin's musingsmight be true.

They trained Bombus impatiens bumblebees to visita particular color for food by using artificial flowers -- green ororange paper circles that were 7 cm (about three inches) in diameter.At some of the "flowers" the bees could feed at cotton wicks soaked insugar water. Without training, bumblebees tended to prefer orange overgreen. The bees, who can easily see the difference between the twocolors, learned to prefer the color that had the sugar water.

Thetrained bumblebees visited a feeding arena that had three green andthree orange circles. A small plexiglass tube with an observation portwas positioned 25 cm (about 10 inches) away. Other bumblebees, one at atime, were allowed to press their faces against the port and watch fromthree to 12 trained bees feed for 10 minutes. At that distance, anobserver bee could tell that there were bees on the flowers, butprobably couldn't tell exactly what the bees were doing.

A separate set of observer bees served as controls: they got to watch the feeding arena for 10 minutes with no bees in it.

Thenthe lights were turned off and, behind the scenes, the feeding bees andtheir flowers were removed. A new set of three green and three orangeartificial flowers was set up in the feeding arena, but the flowers hadno food and the location of the particular colors was different fromwhat the bumblebee had observed.

The observer bees were thenallowed, one at a time, to visit the artificial flowers. Observers thathad watched bumblebees feed on green were twice as likely to visit thegreen circles. To make sure that odor cues were not somehow influencingthe observer bees, Worden made model bumblebees using life-size resinmodels of bumblebees painted in bee colors and with real bumblebeewings glued on. He then repeated the experiments with a new set ofobserver bumblebees watching the "behavior" of the models.

When it was their turn to forage, the watchers preferred the color that the model bees were "visiting."

Whilehoneybees do a dance to communicate to hive mates the location of goodflowers, bumblebees do not. Worden speculates that watching other beesin the field may be particularly important for bumblebees because theycannot find out from their hive mates exactly where the good flowersare located.

Papaj noted that Darwin's original proposition, thatone species of bee may watch and learn from other species of bees,remains to be tested. He added that such "eavesdropping" would greatlyexpand a colony's sources of information about rewarding flowers.

Worden and Papaj plan to conduct more research to determine when bees copy others and when they learn on their own.

###

Related Web sites:
Dan Papaj
http://eebweb.arizona.edu/faculty/papaj/LabWebsite/LabHomepage.htm

UA Dept. of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology
http://eebweb.arizona.edu/

UA Center for Insect Science
http://cis.arl.arizona.edu/


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by University of Arizona. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Cite This Page:

University of Arizona. "Bumblebee See, Bumblebee Do." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 1 September 2005. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2005/09/050901072929.htm>.
University of Arizona. (2005, September 1). Bumblebee See, Bumblebee Do. ScienceDaily. Retrieved November 25, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2005/09/050901072929.htm
University of Arizona. "Bumblebee See, Bumblebee Do." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2005/09/050901072929.htm (accessed November 25, 2014).

Share This


More From ScienceDaily



More Plants & Animals News

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

From Popcorn To Vending Snacks: FDA Ups Calorie Count Rules

From Popcorn To Vending Snacks: FDA Ups Calorie Count Rules

Newsy (Nov. 25, 2014) The US FDA is announcing new calorie rules on Tuesday that will require everywhere from theaters to vending machines to include calorie counts. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Feast Your Eyes: Lamb Chop Sent Into Space from UK

Feast Your Eyes: Lamb Chop Sent Into Space from UK

Reuters - Light News Video Online (Nov. 25, 2014) Take a stab at this -- stunt video shows a lamb chop's journey from an east London restaurant over 30 kilometers into space. Rough Cut (no reporter narration). Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com
Cambodian Capital's Only Working Elephant to Retire in Jungle

Cambodian Capital's Only Working Elephant to Retire in Jungle

AFP (Nov. 25, 2014) Phnom Penh's only working elephant was blessed by a crowd of chanting Buddhist monks Tuesday as she prepared for a life of comfortable jungle retirement after three decades of giving rides to tourists. Duration: 00:36 Video provided by AFP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Stray Dog Follows Adventure Racing Team for 6-Day Endurance Race

Stray Dog Follows Adventure Racing Team for 6-Day Endurance Race

Buzz60 (Nov. 24, 2014) A Swedish Adventure racing team travels to try and win a world title, but comes home with something way better: a stray dog that joined the team for much of the grueling 430-mile race. Jen Markham has the story. Video provided by Buzz60
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:

Strange & Offbeat Stories


Plants & Animals

Earth & Climate

Fossils & Ruins

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile: iPhone Android Web
Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins