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J Comp Physiol A Neuroethol Sens Neural Behav Physiol. 2004 Jul;190(7):539-48. Epub 2004 Apr 8.

Thorax vibrations of a stingless bee ( Melipona seminigra). I. No influence of visual flow.

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Biocenter, Institute of Zoology, University of Vienna, Althanstr.14, 1090 Wien, Austria.


An important question in stingless bee communication is whether the thorax vibrations produced by foragers of the genus Melipona upon their return to the nest contain spatial information about food sources or not. As previously shown M. seminigra is able to use visual flow to estimate flight distances. The present study investigated whether foraging bees encode the visually measured distance in their thorax vibrations. Bees were trained to collect food in flight tunnels lined with a black-and-white pattern on their side walls and floor, which substantially influenced the image motion they experienced. When the bees had collected inside the tunnels the temporal pattern of their vibrations differed significantly from the pattern after collecting in a natural environment. These changes, however, were not associated with the visual flow experienced inside the tunnel. Bees collecting in tunnels offering little visual flow (stripes parallel to flight direction) modified their vibrations similarly to bees collecting in tunnels with high image motion (cross stripes). A higher energy expenditure due to drastically reduced flight velocities inside the tunnel is suggested to be responsible for changes in the thorax vibrations. The bees' vibrations would thus reflect the overall energetic budget of a foraging trip.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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