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Naturwissenschaften. 2008 Dec;95(12):1181-7. doi: 10.1007/s00114-008-0440-6. Epub 2008 Sep 24.

A bee in the corridor: centering and wall-following.

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Biorobotics Lab., Institute of Movement Science, CNRS and University of the Mediterranean, 163, ave. Luminy, 13288, Marseille cedex 09, France.


In an attempt to better understand the mechanism underlying lateral collision avoidance in flying insects, we trained honeybees (Apis mellifera) to fly through a large (95-cm wide) flight tunnel. We found that, depending on the entrance and feeder positions, honeybees would either center along the corridor midline or fly along one wall. Bees kept following one wall even when a major (150-cm long) part of the opposite wall was removed. These findings cannot be accounted for by the "optic flow balance" hypothesis that has been put forward to explain the typical bees' "centering response" observed in narrower corridors. Both centering and wall-following behaviors are well accounted for, however, by a control scheme called the lateral optic flow regulator, i.e., a feedback system that strives to maintain the unilateral optic flow constant. The power of this control scheme is that it would allow the bee to guide itself visually in a corridor without having to measure its speed or distance from the walls.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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