Guidance by odors in honeybee navigation

J Comp Physiol A Neuroethol Sens Neural Behav Physiol. 2013 Oct;199(10):867-73. doi: 10.1007/s00359-013-0850-6. Epub 2013 Aug 22.


Animal navigation is guided by multiple sensory cues. Here, we ask whether and how olfactory stimuli emanating from places other than the trained feeding site redirect the flight paths of honeybees. The flight trajectories of individual bees were registered using harmonic radar tracking. Sensory cues (compass direction, distance, visual cues en route and close to the feeding site) associated with the trained flight route dominated wayfinding, but a learned odorant carried by air flow induced excursions into the wind. These redirections were largely restricted to rather small deviations from the trained route (<60°, <200 m) and occurred only if the animal did not receive the trained odorant stimulus at the trained feeding site. Under certain conditions, larger excursions were observed. These findings are discussed in the context of odor guidance of honeybees over longer distances (>300 m from the hive).

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Bees / physiology*
  • Cues*
  • Distance Perception
  • Feeding Behavior
  • Flight, Animal*
  • Memory
  • Odorants*
  • Olfactory Perception*
  • Radar / instrumentation
  • Smell*
  • Time Factors
  • Visual Perception
  • Wind