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Ethanol Self-Administration in Free-Flying Honeybees (Apis mellifera L.) in an Operant Conditioning Protocol

Authors

  • Michel B. C. Sokolowski,

    Corresponding author
    • Jules Verne , INSERM 24 (ERI24), Groupe de Recherche sur l'Alcool et les Pharmacodépendances, Université de Picardie, Amiens Cedex 1, France
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  • Charles I. Abramson,

    1. Laboratory of Comparative Psychology and Behavioral Biology , Departments of Psychology and Zoology, Oklahoma State University, Stillwater, Oklahoma
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  • David Philip Arthur Craig

    1. Laboratory of Comparative Psychology and Behavioral Biology , Departments of Psychology and Zoology, Oklahoma State University, Stillwater, Oklahoma
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Reprint requests: Michel Sokolowski, Jules Verne, Department de Psychologie, Université de Picardie, Chemin du Thil, 80025 Amiens Cedex 1, France; Tel.: 33-(0)-322-82-89-11; Fax: 33-(0)-322-82-74-08; E-mail: michel.sokolowski@u-picardie.fr

Abstract

Background

This study examines the effect of ethanol (EtOH) on continuous reinforcement schedules in the free-flying honeybee (Apis mellifera L.). As fermented nectars may be encountered naturally in the environment, we designed an experiment combining the tools of laboratory research with minimal disturbance to the natural life of honeybees.

Methods

Twenty-five honeybees were trained to fly from their colonies to a fully automated operant chamber with head poking as the operant response. Load size, intervisit interval, and interresponse times (IRTs) served as the dependent variables and were monitored over the course of a daily training session consisting of many visits. Experimental bees were tested using an ABA design in which sucrose only was administered during condition A and a 5% EtOH sucrose solution was administered during condition B. Control bees received sucrose solution only.

Results

Most bees continued to forage after EtOH introduction. EtOH significantly reduced the load size and the intervisit interval with no significant effect on IRTs. However, a look on individual data shows large individual differences suggesting the existence of different kinds of behavioral phenotypes linked to EtOH consumption and effects.

Conclusions

Our results contribute to the study of EtOH consumption as a normal phenomenon in an ecological context and open the door to schedule-controlled drug self-administration studies in honeybees.

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