Influence of scent deposits on flower choice: experiments in an artificial flower array with bumblebeesSebastian Witjes and Thomas Eltz
Department of Neurobiology, Sensory Ecology Group, University of Düsseldorf, Universitätstr. 1, 40225 Düsseldorf, Germany
(Received 27 December 2005 - Revised 28 March 2006 - Accepted 13 April 2006 - Published online 15 December 2006)
Abstract - Foraging bumblebees leave chemical substances when visiting flowers and the detection of these "scent marks" improves their foraging efficiency. Whereas laboratory studies found that scent-marks convey attraction to food sources, all field studies found foragers to be repelled by recently visited flowers. In this study we aim to resolve this conflict by implementing near-natural reward dynamics in a laboratory feeder array. When feeders were filled with small, non-replenished amounts of reward, worker bumblebees (Bombus terrestris) avoided revisiting the depleted feeders. As evidenced by a "corolla" replacement experiment, feeder discrimination was based on the perception of chemical cues deposited during previous visits. Pentane extracts of bumblebee tarsi acted as a repellent when applied to glass corollas, whereas pure pentane did not. We suggest that scent-marks are simple cues inherent to footprints and emphasize the importance of context to how these cues are interpreted by foraging bees.
Key words: flower discrimination / repellent scent marks / chemical cue / signal / bumble bees / Bombus
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© INRA, DIB-AGIB, EDP Sciences 2007