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Anim Behav. 2000 May;59(5):1025-1034.

Olfactory information transfer in the honeybee: compared efficiency of classical conditioning and early exposure.

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  • 1Laboratoire de Neurobiologie Comparée des Invertébrés, INRA


We investigated the ability of honeybees, Apis mellifera, to use olfactory information gained in a given experimental context, in other contexts. First, restrained bees were subjected to a Pavlovian associative learning procedure, based on the conditioning of the proboscis extension response (PER), where a floral odour was paired with a sugar reward. We observed the orientation behaviour of conditioned and naïve bees in a four-armed olfactometer with four contiguous fields either scented with the conditioning odour or unscented. Information transfer was clearly shown, conditioned bees orienting towards the conditioning odour, whilst naïve bees shunned it. Second, the effect of passive olfactory exposures during the bees' development was assessed in two behavioural contexts: either orientation in the olfactometer or a PER conditioning procedure. Two exposure periods were applied: (1) the pupal stage (9 days before emergence); (2) the early adult stage (8 days after emergence). No effect of preimaginal exposure was recorded, but exposure during the early adult stage induced a higher choice frequency of the odour field in the olfactometer, and lower learning performance in the PER conditioning assay. These observations show that olfactory information gained during development can modify bees' later behaviour in different contexts: this is another instance of olfactory information transfer in bees. These results also suggest that nonassociative learning phenomena, taking place at a critical period during development, might be involved in the maturation of the bees' olfactory system, and in the organization of odour-mediated behaviours. Copyright 2000 The Association for the Study of Animal Behaviour.

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