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Acta Biológica Colombiana

Print version ISSN 0120-548X


AMAYA MARQUEZ, MARISOL. Memory And Learning In Bees' Floral Choices. Acta biol.Colomb. [online]. 2009, vol.14, n.2, pp.125-136. ISSN 0120-548X.

Pollinators highly specialized in their diet do not make food choices by means of cognitive processes; they just follow the dictate writing in their genes. Contrary, for the social bee Apis mellifera a floral choice implies to make a decision, usually following an economic criterion, based on information acquired from the environment and stored in some form of memory. Although there are numerous studies and models about floral choice in bees, most of them have derived their conclusions from 'static' conditions of the interaction. Rarely those studies have considered the dynamics of the ecological context, in which seasonality and daily rhythms in floral anthesis change the floral market for the bees. The change in flower species composition faces the pollinators to make sequential choices about what plant species to exploit in each case. In this paper I enter the subject about sequential foraging on heterospecific floral patches, focusing on the use that the bee A. mellifera makes of the information previously learned in a context, when the same bee face food exploitation in a completely different ecological context. I have done some experiments simulating two different floral patches, and exposing individuals of A. mellifera to decide about what floral resource to forage in each patch. The results indicate that the bee initially samples alternatives and they do invest on cognitive process to learn about the best flower species, but once this information is stored in the bee's memory, the bee takes a piece of the learned information (color), to use it as a search image while exploiting heterospecific floral patches. In this paper I discuss biological situations, which support the idea that in nature the use of a color search images by social bees, can be more common than it was thought initially. Cost and benefits are derived from this behavior.

Keywords : Memory and learning in bees; search image; floral choice; heterospecific foraging; Apis mellifera.

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