Free access
Volume 39, Number 6, November-December 2008
Page(s) 714 - 722
Published online 25 November 2008
Apidologie 39 (2008) 714-722
DOI: 10.1051/apido:2008053

Floral scents experienced within the colony affect long-term foraging preferences in honeybees

Andrés Arenas, Vanesa M. Fernández and Walter M. Farina

Grupo de Estudio de Insectos Sociales. Departamento de Biodiversidad y Biología Experimental, IFIBYNE-CONICET, Facultad de Ciencias Exactas y Naturales, Universidad de Buenos Aires, Pabellón II, Ciudad Universitaria (C1428EHA), Buenos Aires, Argentina

Received 30 July 2008 – Revised 1 September 2008 – Accepted 5 September 2008 - Published online 25 November 2008

Abstract - Food scents circulating inside beehives influence foraging preferences in the field. However, the persistence and nature of the prior experience that lead to this biased response remain unknown. To determine how long honeybees show a food preference after experiencing a scented food inside the colony, we offered sugar solution scented into beehives. After all the combs of the experimental colonies were replaced, the landing responses of foragers were quantified in a two-scented-feeder situation outside the colony. We also tested whether bees exposed to a volatile compound inside the hive preferred a feeder scented with this odor to an unscented one. Results support the conclusion that the offering of a scented food enhanced the bias to this odor, whereas the volatile compound exposure caused a reduced landing response towards the scented option. These results suggest that olfactory experiences occurring within the beehive can promote changes in foraging preferences for several days.

Key words: Apis mellifera / honeybee / olfactory learning / long-term memory / foraging choice

© INRA, DIB-AGIB, EDP Sciences 2008