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Volume 24, Number 3, 1993
Neurobiology of the honeybee
Page(s) 283 - 296
Apidologie 24 (1993) 283-296
DOI: 10.1051/apido:19930308

Antennal reflexes in the honeybee: tools for studying the nervous system

J. Erber, B. Pribbenow, A. Bauer and P. Kloppenburg

Institut für Biologie, Technische Universität Berlin, Franklinstr 28/29, D Berlin 10 587, Germany

Abstract - Honeybees respond with antennal reflexes to stimuli of different modalities when kept in the restricted conditions of a laboratory experiment. The animals react with direction-specific antennal responses to vertically moving stripe patterns. Stripe patterns with velocities between 25°/s and 60°/s evoke maximum responses. The minimum pattern size is 55° x 35° relative to the bee eye. Unilateral stimulation with the pattern elicits ipsilateral antennal responses. Bees respond to olfactory stimuli with directed scanning movements of both antennae. The magnitude of the response depends on the logarithm of the odour concentration. Different classes of odours evoke different responses. Bees touch objects briefly and frequently with their antennae. The median contact duration is < 10 ms; the frequency of contact ranges from < 3/min to > 300/min. The mechanical antennal response shows a high degree of plasticity. Bees appear to learn the position of an object and scan the area and contours of the object for at least 2 min after it has been removed. The antennal reflexes of the bee serve as tools for studying signal processing, neuromodulation, sensitisation and learning in different sensory systems.

Key words: Apis mellifera / antennal reflex / plasticity / neurobiology