Innate colour preferences of the Australian native stingless bee Tetragonula carbonaria Sm.

Adrian G. Dyer, Skye Boyd-Gerny, Mani Shrestha, Klaus Lunau, Jair E. Garcia, Sebastian Koethe, Bob B M Wong

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

20 Citations (Scopus)


Innate preferences promote the capacity of pollinators to find flowers. Honeybees and bumblebees have strong preferences for ‘blue’ stimuli, and flowers of this colour typically present higher nectar rewards. Interestingly, flowers from multiple different locations around the world independently have the same distribution in bee colour space. Currently, however, there is a paucity of data on the innate colour preferences of stingless bees that are often implicated as being key pollinators in many parts of the world. In Australia, the endemic stingless bee Tetragonula carbonaria is widely distributed and known to be an efficient pollinator of both native plants and agricultural crops. In controlled laboratory conditions, we tested the innate colour responses of naïve bees using standard broadband reflectance stimuli representative of common flower colours. Colorimetric analyses considering hymenopteran vision and a hexagon colour space revealed a difference between test colonies, and a significant effect of green contrast and an interaction effect of green contrast with spectral purity on bee choices. We also observed colour preferences for stimuli from the blue and blue–green categorical regions of colour space. Our results are discussed in relation to the similar distribution of flower colours observed from bee pollination around the world.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)603-613
Number of pages11
JournalJournal of Comparative Physiology A-Neuroethology Sensory Neural and Behavioral Physiology
Issue number9-10
Publication statusPublished - 1 Oct 2016


  • Flower
  • Insect
  • Pollinator
  • Southern hemisphere
  • Vision

Cite this