Prototypical components of honeybee homing flight behaviour depend on the visual appearance of objects surrounding the goal

Frontiers in Behavioral Neuroscience. 2012;6 DOI 10.3389/fnbeh.2012.00001


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Journal Title: Frontiers in Behavioral Neuroscience

ISSN: 1662-5153 (Online)

Publisher: Frontiers Media S.A.

LCC Subject Category: Medicine: Internal medicine: Neurosciences. Biological psychiatry. Neuropsychiatry

Country of publisher: Switzerland

Language of fulltext: English

Full-text formats available: PDF, HTML, ePUB, XML



Elke eBraun (Bielefeld University)

Laura eDittmar (Bielefeld University)

Norbert eBoeddeker (Bielefeld University)

Martin eEgelhaaf (Bielefeld University)


Blind peer review

Editorial Board

Instructions for authors

Time From Submission to Publication: 14 weeks


Abstract | Full Text

Honeybees use visual cues to relocate profitable food sources and their hive. What bees see while navigating, depends on the appearance of the cues, the bee’s current position, orientation and movement relative to them. Here we analyse the detailed flight behaviour during the localisation of a goal surrounded by cylinders that are characterised either by a high contrast in luminance and texture or by mostly motion contrast relative to the background. By relating flight behaviour to the nature of the information available from these landmarks, we aim to identify behavioural strategies that facilitate the processing of visual information during goal localisation. We decompose flight behaviour into prototypical movements using clustering algorithms in order to reduce the behavioural complexity. The determined prototypical movements reflect the honeybee’s saccadic flight pattern that largely separates rotational from translational movements. During phases of translational movements between fast saccadic rotations, the bees can gain information about the three dimensional layout of their environment from the translational optic flow. The prototypical movements reveal the prominent role of sideways and up- or downward movements, which can help bees to gather information about objects, particularly in the frontal visual field. We find that the occurrence of specific prototypes depends on the bees’ distance from the landmarks and the feeder and that changing the texture of the landmarks evokes different prototypical movements. The adaptive use of different behavioural prototypes shapes the visual input and can facilitate information processing in the bees’ visual system during local navigation.