Home > Papers from 2012 > Foraging in patchy shade

Foraging in patchy shade

This paper may be of  interest to some people. The experiments ask questions about bees’ choice of coloured patterns under patchy light conditions.

Abstract “Patchy illumination presents foraging animals with a challenge, as the targets being sought may appear to vary in colour depending on the illumination, compromising target identification. We sought to explore how the bumblebee Bombus terrestris copes with tasks involving flower colour discrimination under patchy illumination. Light patches varied between unobscured daylight and leaf-shade, as a bee might encounter in and around woodland. Using a flight arena and coloured filters, as well as one or two different colours of artificial flower, we quantified how bees chose to forage when presented with foraging tasks under patchy illumination. Bees were better at discriminating a pair of similar colours under simulated unobscured daylight illumination than when foraging under leaf-shade illumination. Accordingly, we found that bees with prior experience of simulated daylight but not leaf-shade illumination initially preferred to forage in simulated daylight when all artificial flowers contained rewards as well as when only one colour was rewarding, whereas bees with prior experience of both illuminants did not exhibit this preference. Bees also switched between illuminants less than expected by chance. This means that bees prefer illumination conditions with which they are familiar, and in which rewarding flower colours are easily distinguishable from unrewarding ones. Under patchy illumination, colour discrimination performance was substantially poorer than in homogenous light. The beesʼ abilities at coping with patchy light may therefore impact on foraging behaviour in the wild, particularly in woodlands, where illumination can change over short spatial scales.”

Sarah E. J. Arnold and Lars Chittka (2012) Illumination preference, illumination constancy and colour discrimination by bumblebees in an environment with patchy light. J Exp Biol 2012;215 2173-2180

Categories: Papers from 2012
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