Male bumblebees perform learning flights on leaving a flower but not when leaving their nest

Robert, Théo and Frasnelli, Elisa and Collett, Thomas S. and de Ibarra, Natalie Hempel (2017) Male bumblebees perform learning flights on leaving a flower but not when leaving their nest. Journal of Experimental Biology . jeb.151126. ISSN 0022-0949

Full content URL: http://doi.org/10.1242/jeb.151126

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Abstract

Female bees and wasps demonstrate, through their performance of
elaborate learning flights, when and where they memorise features of
a significant site. An important feature of these flights is that the
insects look back to fixate the site that they are leaving. Females,
which forage for nectar and pollen and return with it to the nest,
execute learning flights on their initial departure from both their nest
and newly discovered flowers. To our knowledge, these flights have
so far only been studied in females. Here, we describe and analyse
putative learning flights observed in male bumblebees Bombus
terrestris L. Once male bumblebees are mature, they leave their nest
for good and fend for themselves. We show that, unlike female
foragers, males always fly directly away from their nest, without
looking back, in keeping with their indifference to their natal nest. In
contrast, after males have drunk from artificial flowers, their flights on
first leaving the flowers resemble the learning flights of females,
particularly in their fixation of the flowers. These differences in the
occurrence of female and male learning flights seem to match the
diverse needs of the two sexes to learn about disparate, ecologically
relevant places in their surroundings.

Keywords:eusocial insect, bee, spatial learning, sex-specific behaviour, navigation, foraging
Subjects:C Biological Sciences > C340 Entomology
B Subjects allied to Medicine > B140 Neuroscience
Divisions:College of Science > School of Life Sciences
ID Code:30136
Deposited On:25 Jan 2018 19:38

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