Detection of coloured patterns by honeybees through chromatic and achromatic cues

J Comp Physiol A. 2001 Apr;187(3):215-24. doi: 10.1007/s003590100192.


We asked whether the detection range of two-coloured centre-surround patterns differs from that of single-coloured targets. Honeybees Apis mellifera were trained to distinguish between the presence and absence of a single-coloured disc or a coloured pattern at different visual angles. The patterns presented colours which were either different in chromatic and L-receptor contrasts to the background, equal in chromatic but different in L-receptor contrasts, or vice-versa. Patterns with colours presenting only chromatic contrast were also tested. Patterns with higher L-receptor contrast in its outer than in its inner element were better detected than patterns with a reversed L-contrast distribution. However, both were detected worse than single-coloured discs of the respective colours. When the L-receptor contrast was the same for both elements, the detection range of the two-coloured and single-coloured targets was the same. Patterns whose colours lacked L-receptor contrast were detected just as single-coloured targets of the same colours. These results demonstrate that both chromatic and L-receptor contrasts mediate the detection of coloured patterns and that particular distributions of L-receptor contrast within a target are better detected than others. This finding is consistent with the intervention of neurons with centre-surround receptive fields in the detection of coloured patterns.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Bees / physiology*
  • Behavior, Animal
  • Color Perception / physiology*
  • Eye / ultrastructure
  • Pattern Recognition, Visual / physiology*
  • Plants