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Neurobiol Learn Mem. 1999 Nov;72(3):180-201.

Honeybee memory: navigation by associative grouping and recall of visual stimuli.

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Research School of Biological Sciences, Australian National University, Canberra, ACT 2601, Australia.


Studies of navigation in bees and ants are beginning to reveal that foraging insects traveling repeatedly to a food source navigate by using a series of visual images of the environment acquired en route (Collett, 1996; Collett et al., 1993; Judd & Collett, 1998; Wehner et al., 1990, 1996). By comparing the currently viewed scene with the appropriate stored image, the insect is able to ascertain whether or not it is on the correct path and make any necessary corrections. If a bee happens to forage at more than one site, then she needs not only to memorize a separate set of images for each route that she has learned but also to retrieve the set of images that is appropriate to each route. Here we examine the bee's capacity to learn and later retrieve from memory two different sets of visual stimuli. Bees were trained to fly through a compound Y-maze where they were presented alternately with two different sequences of visual stimuli on their route to a food reward. We find that bees can indeed store two different sequences of images simultaneously. Furthermore, the trained bees are able to classify the memorized images into two groups, one pertaining to each three-stimulus set. Exposure to any of the images pertaining to one set triggers recall of all of the other images associated with that set. Associative grouping and recall of visual stimuli, demonstrated here for the first time in honeybees, provide an effective means of retrieving the appropriate navigational information from memory.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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