Honeybees can recognise images of complex natural scenes for use as potential landmarks

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The ability to navigate long distances to find rewarding flowers and return home is a key factor in the survival of honeybees (Apis mellifera). To reliably perform this task, bees combine both odometric and landmark cues, which potentially creates a dilemma since environments rich in odometric cues might be poor in salient landmark cues, and vice versa. In the present study, honeybees were provided with differential conditioning to images of complex natural scenes, in order to determine if they could reliably learn to discriminate between very similar scenes, and to recognise a learnt scene from a novel distractor scene. Choices made by individual bees were modelled with signal detection theory, and bees demonstrated an ability to discriminate between perceptually similar target and distractor views despite similar spatiotemporal content of the images. In a non-rewarded transfer test bees were also able to recognise target stimuli from novel distractors. These findings indicate that visual processing in bees is sufficiently accurate for recognising views of complex scenery as potential landmarks, which would enable bees flying in a forest to use trees both as landmark and/or odometric cues.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1180 - 1186
Number of pages7
JournalJournal of Experimental Biology
Issue number8
Publication statusPublished - 2008

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