Differences in spatial resolution and contrast sensitivity of flight control in the honeybees Apis cerana and Apis mellifera

J Exp Biol. 2018 Oct 17;221(Pt 20):jeb184267. doi: 10.1242/jeb.184267.


Visually guided behaviour is constrained by the capacity of the visual system to resolve detail. This, in turn, is limited by the spatial resolution and contrast sensitivity of the underlying visual system. Because these properties are interdependent and vary non-uniformly, it is only possible to fully understand the limits of a specific visually guided behaviour when they are investigated in combination. To understand the visual limits of flight control in bees, which rely heavily on vision to control flight, and to explore whether they vary between species, we tested how changes in spatial resolution and contrast sensitivity affect the speed and position control of the Asian and European honeybees (Apis cerana and Apis mellifera). Despite the apparent similarity of these species, we found some interesting and surprising differences between their visual limits. While the effect of spatial frequency and contrast on position control is similar between the species, ground speed is differently affected by these variables. A comparison with published data from the bumblebee Bombus terrestris revealed further differences. The visual resolution that limits the detection and use of optic flow for flight control in both species of honeybee is lower than the previously anatomically determined resolution and differs from object detection limits of A. mellifera, providing evidence that the limits of spatial resolution and contrast sensitivity are highly tuned to the particular behavioural task of a species.

Keywords: Contrast sensitivity; Flight control; Insect; Optic flow; Spatial resolution; Visual information.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Bees / physiology*
  • Contrast Sensitivity / physiology*
  • Species Specificity
  • Vision, Ocular / physiology*

Associated data

  • Dryad/10.5061/dryad.n0vr7d0