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J Comp Physiol A Neuroethol Sens Neural Behav Physiol. 2010 Apr;196(4):307-13. doi: 10.1007/s00359-010-0510-z. Epub 2010 Mar 10.

Honeybees change their height to restore their optic flow.

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Biorobotics Department, Institute of Movement Sciences, CNRS-University of Aix-Marseille II, Marseille, France.


To further elucidate the mechanisms underlying insects' height and speed control, we trained outdoor honeybees to fly along a high-roofed tunnel, part of which was equipped with a moving floor. Honeybees followed the stationary part of the floor at a given height. On encountering the moving part of the floor, which moved in the same direction as their flight, honeybees descended and flew at a lower height, thus gradually restoring their ventral optic flow (OF) to a similar value to that they had percieved when flying over the stationary part of the floor. This was therefore achieved not by increasing their airspeed, but by lowering their height of flight. These results can be accounted for by a control system called an optic flow regulator, as proposed in previous studies. This visuo-motor control scheme explains how honeybees can navigate safely along tunnels on the sole basis of OF measurements, without any need to measure either their speed or the clearance from the surrounding walls.

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