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Anim Cogn. 2012 Nov;15(6):1195-203. doi: 10.1007/s10071-012-0544-4. Epub 2012 Aug 3.

Interpatch foraging in honeybees-rational decision making at secondary hubs based upon time and motivation.

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Department of Biology, Washburn University, Topeka, KS, USA.


For honeybees, Apis mellifera, the hive has been well known to function as a primary decision-making hub, a place from which foragers decide among various directions, distances, and times of day to forage efficiently. Whether foraging honeybees can make similarly complex navigational decisions from locations away from the hive is unknown. To examine whether or not such secondary decision-making hubs exist, we trained bees to forage at four different locations. Specifically, we trained honeybees to first forage to a distal site "CT" 100 m away from the hive; if food was present, they fed and then chose to go home. If food was not present, the honeybees were trained to forage to three auxiliary sites, each at a different time of the day: A in the morning, B at noon, and C in the afternoon. The foragers learned to check site CT for food first and then efficiently depart to the correct location based upon the time of day if there was no food at site CT. Thus, the honeybees were able to cognitively map motivation, time, and five different locations (Hive, CT, A, B, and C) in two spatial dimensions; these are the contents of the cognitive map used by the honeybees here. While at site CT, we verified that the honeybees could choose between 4 different directions (to A, B, C, and the Hive) and thus label it as a secondary decision-making hub. The observed decision making uncovered here is inferred to constitute genuine logical operations, involving a branched structure, based upon the premises of motivational state, and spatiotemporal knowledge.

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