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Front Behav Neurosci. 2014 Mar 14;8:80. doi: 10.3389/fnbeh.2014.00080. eCollection 2014.

Conceptualization of relative size by honeybees.

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Biological and Experimental Psychology, School of Biological and Chemical Sciences, Queen Mary University London London, UK.
Institut für Zoologie III (Neurobiologie), Johannes Gutenberg-Universität Mainz, Germany.
Department of Physiology, Monash University Clayton, VIC, Australia ; School of Media and Communication, Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology Melbourne, VIC, Australia.


The ability to process visual information using relational rules allows for decisions independent of the specific physical attributes of individual stimuli. Until recently, the manipulation of relational concepts was considered as a prerogative of large mammalian brains. Here we show that individual free flying honeybees can learn to use size relationship rules to choose either the larger or smaller stimulus as the correct solution in a given context, and subsequently apply the learnt rule to novel colors and shapes providing that there is sufficient input to the long wavelength (green) photoreceptor channel. Our results add a novel, size-based conceptual rule to the set of relational concepts that honeybees have been shown to master and underline the value of bees as an animal model for studying the emergence of conceptualization abilities.


Apis mellifera; honeybee; long wavelength photoreceptor; relational concept learning; relative size

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