Distance estimation by Asian honey bees in two visually different landscapes

J Exp Biol. 2021 Apr 1;jeb.242404. doi: 10.1242/jeb.242404. Online ahead of print.


Honey bees estimate distances to food sources using image motion experienced on the flight path and they use this measure to tune the waggle phase duration in their dance communication. Most studies on the dance-related odometer are based on experiments with Apis mellifera foragers trained into small tunnels with black and white patterns which allowed quantifiable changes in the optic flow. In this study, we determined the calibration curves of two Asian honey bee species, A. florea and A. cerana, in two different natural environments with clear differences in the vegetation conditions and hence visual contrast. We found that the dense vegetation condition (with higher contrast) elicited a more rapid increase in the waggle phase duration with distance than the sparse vegetation in A. florea but not in A. cerana Our findings suggest that contrast sensitivity of the waggle dance odometer might vary among honey bee species.

Keywords: Apis cerana; Apis florea; Optic flow; Visual contrast; Waggle dance.