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Effects of Experience on Short- and Long-term Foraging Performance in Bumblebees

Authors


Reuven Dukas, Animal Behaviour Group, Department of Psychology, Neuroscience and Behaviour, McMaster University, 1280 Main Street West, Hamilton, Ontario, Canada L8S 4K1.
Email: dukas@mcmaster.ca

Abstract

Honeybees in natural settings show a gradual increase in foraging performance similar to the general pattern of lifetime performance seen in a wide variety of animals including humans. To quantify the factors contributing to such gradual increase in foraging success, we studied bumblebees foraging on pepper plants inside a greenhouse. This allowed us to combine the global measure of the net rate of food delivery to the hive with a detailed examination of bees’ performance at flowers over time. Although bees exhibited short-term improvements in foraging ability during their first few foraging trips, we did not observe the predicted long-term increase in performance over days. Our results suggest that a variety of flower-handling tasks, flower choice and movements between plants can be learned quickly under the simple greenhouse settings. The long-term increase in performance under natural settings may be caused by factors including spatial orientation and locating the best plant species, flower patches and individual plants over a large area.

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