The final moments of landing in bumblebees, Bombus terrestris

J Comp Physiol A Neuroethol Sens Neural Behav Physiol. 2016 Apr;202(4):277-85. doi: 10.1007/s00359-016-1073-4. Epub 2016 Feb 11.

Abstract

In comparison to other insects, like honeybees, bumblebees are very effective pollinators. Even though landing is a crucial part of pollination, little is known about how bumblebees orchestrate the final, critical moments of landing. Here, we use high-speed recordings to capture the fine details of the landing behaviour of free-flying bumblebees (Bombus terrestris), while landing on a flat platform with different orientations. We find that the bees have a fairly constant body and head orientation at the moment of leg extension, irrespective of platform tilt. At the same moment in time, the distance to the platform is held constant at around 8 mm (with the exception of low platform tilts). The orientation of the antennae and the first appendage that touches the platform vary between platform orientations, while the duration of the hover phase does not. Overall, the final moments of landing in bumblebees and their close relatives, the honeybees, are similar. However, the distance to the platform at the moment of leg extension and the duration of the hover phase are different in bumblebees and honeybees, suggesting that they are primarily adapted to land on surfaces with different orientations.

Keywords: Bombus terrestris; Bumblebee; Flight; Insect; Landing.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Analysis of Variance
  • Animals
  • Arthropod Antennae / physiology
  • Bees / physiology*
  • Extremities / physiology
  • Flight, Animal / physiology*
  • Head
  • Orientation / physiology*
  • Postural Balance / physiology*
  • Time Factors
  • Video Recording