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J Comp Physiol A Neuroethol Sens Neural Behav Physiol. 2009 Apr;195(4):325-39. doi: 10.1007/s00359-008-0409-0. Epub 2009 Jan 16.

Sucrose acceptance, discrimination and proboscis responses of honey bees (Apis mellifera L.) in the field and the laboratory.

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Institut für Okologie, Technische Universität Berlin, Franklinstrasse 28/29, 10587, Berlin, Germany.


Laboratory studies in honey bees have shown positive correlations between sucrose responsiveness, division of labour and learning. We tested the relationships between sucrose acceptance and discrimination in the field and responsiveness in the laboratory. Based on acceptance in the field three groups of bees were differentiated: (1) bees that accept sucrose concentrations >10%, (2) bees that accept some but not all of the sucrose concentrations <10% and water, and (3) bees that accept water and all offered sucrose concentrations. Sucrose acceptance can be described in a model in which sucrose- and water-dependent responses interact additively. Responsiveness to sucrose was tested in the same bees in the laboratory by measuring the proboscis extension response (PER). The experiments demonstrated that PER responsiveness is lower than acceptance in the field and that it is not possible to infer from the PER measurements in the laboratory those concentrations the respective bees accepted in the field. Discrimination between sucrose concentrations was tested in three groups of free-flying bees collecting low, intermediate or high concentrations of sucrose. The experiments demonstrated that bees can discriminate between concentrations differences down to 0.2 relative log units. There exist only partial correlations between discrimination, acceptance and PER responsiveness.

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