Behavioural evidence of colour vision in free flying stingless bees

Johannes Spaethe, Martin Streinzer, J Eckert, Stefanie May, Adrian G Dyer

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

42 Citations (Scopus)


Colour vision was first demonstrated with behavioural experiments in honeybees 100 years ago. Since that time a wealth of quality physiological data has shown a highly conserved set of trichromatic colour receptors in most bee species. Despite the subsequent wealth of behavioural research on honeybees and bumblebees, there currently is a relative dearth of data on stingless bees, which are the largest tribe of the eusocial bees comprising of more than 600 species. In our first experiment we tested Trigona cf. fuscipennis, a stingless bee species from Costa Rica in a field setting using the von Frisch method and show functional colour vision. In a second experiment with these bees, we use a simultaneous colour discrimination test designed for honeybees to enable a comparative analysis of relative colour discrimination. In a third experiment, we test in laboratory conditions Tetragonula carbonaria, an Australian stingless bee species using a similar simultaneous colour discrimination test. Both stingless bee species show relatively poorer colour discrimination compared to honeybees and bumblebees; and we discuss the value of being able to use these behavioural methods to efficiently extend our current knowledge of colour vision and discrimination in different bee species.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)485 - 496
Number of pages12
JournalJournal of Comparative Physiology A-Neuroethology Sensory Neural and Behavioral Physiology
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished - 2014

Cite this