Free access
Volume 32, Number 3, May-June 2001
Page(s) 231 - 242
DOI: 10.1051/apido:2001125

Apidologie 32 (2001) 231-242

Changes with age in olfactory conditioning performance of worker honey bees (Apis mellifera)

David Laloi, Marie Gallois, Bernard Roger and Minh-Hà Pham-Delègue

Laboratoire de Neurobiologie Comparée des Invertébrés, INRA, BP 23, 91440 Bures-sur-Yvette, France

(Received 6 September 2000; revised 17 February 2001; accepted 26 February 2001)

Proboscis extension reflex conditioning has often been used to study olfactory learning in the honey bee. However, only a few studies have explored the variability of this response relative to the age of the bees, and these studies have yielded different conclusions. We aimed to document the effect of age on the proboscis extension response by measuring three parameters in the experimental procedure: the level of spontaneous responses, the acquisition rate, and the resistance to extinction. The performance of the youngest bees (2-day and 4-day-old) differed from those of older individuals for the three parameters, which may be related to the ontogeny of the olfactory system. In older age-groups, only the resistance to extinction was found to vary with age. We discuss the possible relationships between age-dependent variations in the odour learning abilities and the division of labour in the colony.

Key words: honey bee / Apis mellifera / conditioned proboscis extension / age effect

Correspondence and reprints: Minh-Hà Pham-Delègue

© INRA, EDP Sciences, DIB, AGIB 2001