Olfaction: scent-triggered navigation in honeybees

Nature. 2004 Jan 29;427(6973):411. doi: 10.1038/427411a.


The honeybee, Apis mellifera, navigates rapidly and accurately to food sources that are often kilometres away. They achieve this by learning visual cues, such as the location and colour of nectar-bearing flowers, and chemical cues, such as the scent and the taste of the nectar. Here we train bees to visit differently scented sugar feeders placed at specific outdoor locations and find that they can be induced to visit the same locations simply by having the corresponding scent blown into the hive, even when the destinations no longer have the food or carry the scent. A familiar nectar scent can trigger specific memories of a route and therefore expedite navigation to the food source.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Bees / physiology*
  • Citrus
  • Cues*
  • Feeding Behavior / physiology*
  • Flowers
  • Food
  • Locomotion / physiology*
  • Odorants*
  • Prunus
  • Smell / physiology*