Knowing You Have Arrived

Honey Bee

Honey Bee

Anyone who has “lost” their car in a parking garage knows the importance of remembering its location. Bees don’t have cars, but honey bees have a remarkable ability to remember and return to the location of a food source. Bees use a process called snapshot matching to return to a location. When a bee is at a location that contains food, the bee stores a “snapshot” of the prominent landmarks in its brain. The snapshot is a 2-dimensional pattern, as bees are unable to form 3-dimensional images.

Cartwright and Collett* presented bees with a sugar water source in a bare room with only a single cylinder to serve as a landmark. If the sugar water was removed, bees would search most intensely in the area where the dish had been. If the size of the cylinder was increased, the bees no longer searched the previous location of the sugar water. Instead, they searched an area further distant. As objects become more distant, they appear smaller. At the location where the bees go, the larger cylinder occupies a similar fraction of their visual field as the smaller cylinder did when they “learned” the location.

The conclusion is that the bees compare the live image to a stored “snapshot” of the desired location. Bees will move until the live image matches the snapshot. That is how bees know they have arrived.

*B.A. Cartwright and T.S. Collett. Landmark Learning in Bees. J Comp Physiol (1983) 151:521-543

About jjneal

Jonathan Neal is an Associate Professor of Entomology at Purdue University and author of the textbook, Living With Insects (2010). This blog is a forum to communicate about the intersection of insects with people and policy. This is a personal blog. The opinions and materials posted here are those of the author and are in no way connected with those of my employer.
This entry was posted in behavior, by jjneal, Uncategorized, Vision. Bookmark the permalink.

One Response to Knowing You Have Arrived

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