A new perspective on age related associative and non associative learning performance in honeybees

Guez, David (2012) A new perspective on age related associative and non associative learning performance in honeybees. In: Florio, Richard M., (ed.) Bees: biology, threats and colonies. Animal Science, Issues and Professions . Nova Science Publisher, New York, NY, USA, pp. 229-242.

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Honeybee learning studies often utilize the well known proboscis extension reflex (PER) technique, a method that is known to be influenced by a honeybee's age. In this study, we investigated whether the PER technique may be linked to some of the discrepancies that have been previously noted between associative and non-associate learning performance in honeybees. Whilst associative learning has been shown to improve with age, non associative learning, such as habituation, has shown an apparent decline in performance with age. Here we investigated changes in the sugar elicited PER threshold using 6 different sugars to evaluate the relative value of a given sugar solution as a bee ages. Our results revealed an interesting switch in sugar response between the ages of 7 and 8 days when sucrose or fructose was presented. We found that the sucrose threshold decreased suddenly between 7 and 8 days of age and response to fructose ceased at day 8. The same pattern of results was found when comparing the fructose response's of pollen and nectar foragers. Further results obtained with nectar and pollen foragers suggest that this was not due to a cessation of the perception of fructose.

Our sucrose results explain the apparent discrepancies that have been observed between associative and non associative learning performance in honeybees. We suggest that in associative learning the perceived value of the sugar reward increases with age and so learning only appears to improve. Conversely, in non associative learning the stimulus value increases with age, and subsequently habituation of the response is harder to achieve. We discuss the importance of perspective in interpreting behavioural data, especially when conducting age related experiments in honeybees.

Item ID: 44834
Item Type: Book Chapter (Research - B1)
ISBN: 978-1-61324-903-1
Keywords: Apis mellifera, reinforcement, sugar threshold, associative learning, nonassociative learning, sucrose, fructose
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Date Deposited: 24 Jan 2017 22:18
FoR Codes: 06 BIOLOGICAL SCIENCES > 0602 Ecology > 060201 Behavioural Ecology @ 100%
SEO Codes: 97 EXPANDING KNOWLEDGE > 970106 Expanding Knowledge in the Biological Sciences @ 100%
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