Associative visual learning, color discrimination, and chromatic adaptation in the harnessed honeybee Apis mellifera L

J Comp Physiol A Neuroethol Sens Neural Behav Physiol. 2006 Jul;192(7):691-700. doi: 10.1007/s00359-005-0091-4. Epub 2006 Jan 20.


We studied associative visual learning in harnessed honeybees trained with monochromatic lights associated with a reward of sucrose solution delivered to the antennae and proboscis, to elicit the proboscis extension reflex (PER). We demonstrated five properties of visual learning under these conditions. First, antennae deprivation significantly increased visual acquisition, suggesting that sensory input from the antennae interferes with visual learning. Second, covering the compound eyes with silver paste significantly decreased visual acquisition, while covering the ocelli did not. Third, there was no significant difference in the visual acquisition between nurse bees, guard bees, and foragers. Fourth, bees conditioned with a 540-nm light stimulus exhibited light-induced PER with a 618-nm, but not with a 439-nm light stimulus. Finally, bees conditioned with a 540-nm light stimulus exhibited PER immediately after the 439-nm light was turned off, suggesting that the bees reacted to an afterimage induced by prior adaptation to the 439-nm light that might be similar to the 540-nm light.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Acclimatization*
  • Analysis of Variance
  • Animals
  • Association Learning / physiology*
  • Bees
  • Behavior, Animal
  • Color*
  • Conditioning, Classical / physiology*
  • Discrimination Learning / physiology*
  • Dose-Response Relationship, Radiation
  • Photic Stimulation / methods
  • Sensory Deprivation