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Ground-nesting bees determine the location of their nest relative to a landmark by other than angular size cues


Bees and wasps acquire a visual representation of their nest's environment and use it to locate their nest when they return from foraging trips. This representation contains among other features cues to the distance of near-by landmarks. We worked with two species of ground-nesting bees, Lasioglossum malachurum (Hymenoptera: Halictidae), Dasypoda hirtipes (Hymenoptera: Melittidae) and asked which cues to landmark distance they use during homing. Bees learned to associate a single cylindrical landmark with their nest's location. We subsequently tested returning bees with landmarks of different sizes and thus introduced large discrepancies between the angular size of the landmark as seen from the nest during training and its distance from the nest. The bees' search behaviour and their choice of dummy nest entrances show that both species of ground-nesting bees consistently search for their nest at the learned distance from landmarks. The influence of the apparent size of landmarks on the bees' search and choice behaviour is comparatively weak. We suggest that the bees exploit cues derived from the apparent speed of the landmark's image at their retina for distance evaluation.

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Brünnert, U., Kelber, A. & Zeil, J. Ground-nesting bees determine the location of their nest relative to a landmark by other than angular size cues. J Comp Physiol A 175, 363–369 (1994). https://doi.org/10.1007/BF00192995

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Key words

  • Hymenoptera
  • Bees
  • Homing
  • Landmark guidance
  • Distance perception