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Volume 34, Number 2, March-April 2003
Page(s) 147 - 159
Apidologie 34 (2003) 147-159
DOI: 10.1051/apido:2003006

Learning and discrimination of honey odours by the honey bee

Isabelle Bonod, Jean-Christophe Sandoz, Yves Loublier and Minh-Hà Pham-delègue

Laboratoire de Neurobiologie Comparée des Invertébrés, INRA, BP 23, 91440 Bures-sur-Yvette, France
(Received 6 February 2002; accepted 10 September 2002)

We used classical conditioning of the proboscis extension response to test whether the natural discrimination ability of honey bees could be used to assess the origin of honeys. Five honeys were used as the conditioning stimuli in the procedure: linden (Tilia spp.), oilseed rape (Brassica napus), eucalyptus, sunflower (Helianthus annuus), and black locust (Robinia pseudoacacia). Bees exhibited high levels of conditioned responses to all honey odours. Responses to the conditioned honey were usually the highest, but high levels of generalisation; i.e. behavioural response to other honeys, were recorded. Using a differential conditioning procedure where one honey odour was rewarded and another odour was explicitly unrewarded, we showed that honey bees could not always differentiate between honey types. The potential use of the honey bee as a biological detector to discriminate among honeys is discussed.

Key words: honey bee / olfactory learning / discrimination / honey / melissopalynology

Correspondence and reprints: Jean-Christophe Sandoz
    e-mail:; Present address: Centre de Recherches sur la Cognition Animale, Université Paul-Sabatier, 118 route de Narbonne, 31062 Toulouse Cedex 04, France

© INRA, EDP Sciences, DIB, AGIB 2003