University of Oulu

Romero-González, J.E.; Royka, A.L.; MaBouDi, H.; Solvi, C.; Seppänen, J.-T.; Loukola, O.J. Foraging Bumblebees Selectively Attend to Other Types of Bees Based on Their Reward-Predictive Value. Insects 2020, 11, 800.

Foraging bumblebees selectively attend to other types of bees based on their reward-predictive value

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Author: Romero-González, Jose E.1; Royka, Amanda L.1; MaBouDi, HaDi1,2;
Organizations: 1Department of Biological and Experimental Psychology, School of Biological and Chemical Sciences, Queen Mary University of London, London E1 4NS, UK
2Department of Computer Science, University of Sheffield, Sheffield S1 4DP, UK
3Open Science Centre, University of Jyväskylä, P.O. Box 35, 40014 Jyväskylä, Finland
4Department of Ecology and Genetics, University of Oulu, P.O. Box 3000, 90014 Oulu, Finland
Format: article
Version: published version
Access: open
Online Access: PDF Full Text (PDF, 1.1 MB)
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Language: English
Published: Multidisciplinary Digital Publishing Institute, 2020
Publish Date: 2021-02-10


Using social information can be an efficient strategy for learning in a new environment while reducing the risks associated with trial-and-error learning. Whereas social information from conspecifics has long been assumed to be preferentially attended by animals, heterospecifics can also provide relevant information. Because different species may vary in their informative value, using heterospecific social information indiscriminately can be ineffective and even detrimental. Here, we evaluated how selective use of social information might arise at a proximate level in bumblebees (Bombus terrestris) as a result of experience with demonstrators differing in their visual appearance and in their informative value as reward predictors. Bumblebees were first trained to discriminate rewarding from unrewarding flowers based on which type of “heterospecific” (one of two differently painted model bees) was next to each flower. Subsequently, these bumblebees were exposed to a novel foraging context with two live painted bees. In this novel context, observer bumblebees showed significantly more social information-seeking behavior towards the type of bees that had predicted reward during training. Bumblebees were not attracted by paint-marked small wooden balls (moved via magnets) or paint-marked non-pollinating heterospecifics (woodlice; Porcellio laevis) in the novel context, indicating that bees did not simply respond to conditioned color cues nor to irrelevant social cues, but rather had a “search image” of what previously constituted a valuable, versus invaluable, information provider. The behavior of our bumblebees suggests that their use of social information is governed by learning, is selective, and extends beyond conspecifics.

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Series: Insects
ISSN: 2075-4450
ISSN-E: 2075-4450
ISSN-L: 2075-4450
Volume: 11
Issue: 11
Pages: 1 - 14
Article number: 800
DOI: 10.3390/insects11110800
Type of Publication: A1 Journal article – refereed
Field of Science: 1181 Ecology, evolutionary biology
Funding: J.E.R.-G. was supported by CONACyT and QMUL, CVU 446980, O.J.L. by The Jenny and Antti Wihuri Foundation and Academy of Finland, grant number 309995, H.M. by the the EPSRC Program (Grant No. EP/P006094/1: Brains on Board) and the HFSP programme grant RGP0022/2014 to Lars Chittka, and C.S. by the ERC Advanced Grant SpaceRadarPollinator 339347, also awarded to Lars Chittka.
Academy of Finland Grant Number: 309995
Detailed Information: 309995 (Academy of Finland Funding decision)
Copyright information: © 2020 by the authors. Licensee MDPI, Basel, Switzerland. This article is an open access article distributed under the terms and conditions of the Creative Commons Attribution (CC BY) license (