Africanized honeybees are slower learners than their European counterparts

Naturwissenschaften. 2010 Feb;97(2):153-60. doi: 10.1007/s00114-009-0621-y. Epub 2009 Nov 11.


Does cognitive ability always correlate with a positive fitness consequence? Previous research in both vertebrates and invertebrates provides mixed results. Here, we compare the learning and memory abilities of Africanized honeybees (Apis mellifera scutellata hybrid) and European honeybees (Apis mellifera ligustica). The range of the Africanized honeybee continues to expand, superseding the European honeybee, which led us to hypothesize that they might possess greater cognitive capabilities as revealed by a classical conditioning assay. Surprisingly, we found that fewer Africanized honeybees learn to associate an odor with a reward. Additionally, fewer Africanized honeybees remembered the association a day later. While Africanized honeybees are replacing European honeybees, our results show that they do so despite displaying a relatively poorer performance on an associative learning paradigm.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Africa
  • Animals
  • Association Learning
  • Bees / anatomy & histology
  • Bees / physiology*
  • Cognition
  • Ecosystem
  • Europe
  • Feeding Behavior
  • Learning / physiology*
  • Odorants
  • Reflex / physiology
  • Reward
  • Social Behavior