Colour is more than hue: preferences for compiled colour traits in the stingless bees Melipona mondury and M. quadrifasciata

Sebastian Koethe, Jessica Bossems, Adrian G. Dyer, Klaus Lunau

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14 Citations (Scopus)


The colour vision of bees has been extensively analysed in honeybees and bumblebees, but few studies consider the visual perception of stingless bees (Meliponini). In a five-stage experiment the preference for colour intensity and purity, and the preference for the dominant wavelength were tested by presenting four colour stimuli in each test to freely flying experienced workers of two stingless bee species, Melipona mondury and Melipona quadrifasciata. The results with bee-blue, bee-UV-blue and bee-green colours offered in four combinations of varying colour intensity and purity suggest a complex interaction between these colour traits for the determination of colour choice. Specifically, M. mondury preferred bee-UV-blue colours over bee-green, bee-blue and bee-blue-green colours while M. quadrifasciata preferred bee-green colour stimuli. Moreover in M. mondury the preferences were different if the background colour was changed from grey to green. There was a significant difference between species where M. mondury preferred UV-reflecting over UV-absorbing bee-blue-green colour stimuli, whereas M. quadrifasciata showed an opposite preference. The different colour preferences of the free flying bees in identical conditions may be caused by the bees’ experience with natural flowers precedent to the choice tests, suggesting reward partitioning between species.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)615-627
Number of pages13
JournalJournal of Comparative Physiology A-Neuroethology Sensory Neural and Behavioral Physiology
Issue number9-10
Publication statusPublished - 1 Oct 2016


  • Colour intensity
  • Dominant wavelength
  • Melipona
  • Spectral purity
  • Stingless bees

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