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      A comparative analysis of colour preferences in temperate and tropical social bees

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          Abstract

          The spontaneous occurrence of colour preferences without learning has been demonstrated in several insect species; however, the underlying mechanisms are still not understood. Here, we use a comparative approach to investigate spontaneous and learned colour preferences in foraging bees of two tropical and one temperate species. We hypothesised that tropical bees utilise different sets of plants and therefore might differ in their spontaneous colour preferences. We tested colour-naive bees and foragers from colonies that had been enclosed in large flight cages for a long time. Bees were shortly trained with triplets of neutral, UV-grey stimuli placed randomly at eight locations on a black training disk to induce foraging motivation. During unrewarded tests, the bees’ responses to eight colours were video-recorded. Bees explored all colours and displayed an overall preference for colours dominated by long or short wavelengths, rather than a single colour stimulus. Naive Apis cerana and Bombus terrestris showed similar choices. Both inspected long-wavelength stimuli more than short-wavelength stimuli, whilst responses of the tropical stingless bee Tetragonula iridipennis differed, suggesting that resource partitioning could be a determinant of spontaneous colour preferences. Reward on an unsaturated yellow colour shifted the bees’ preference curves as predicted, which is in line with previous findings that brief colour experience overrides the expression of spontaneous preferences. We conclude that rather than determining foraging behaviour in inflexible ways, spontaneous colour preferences vary depending on experimental settings and reflect potential biases in mechanisms of learning and decision-making in pollinating insects.

          Electronic supplementary material

          The online version of this article (10.1007/s00114-017-1531-z) contains supplementary material, which is available to authorized users.

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          Most cited references 43

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          Color choices by bumble bees ( Bombus terrestris ): innate preferences and generalization after learning

           A. Gumbert (2000)
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            THE ECOLOGY OF FLOWER COLOURS AND THE NATURAL COLOUR VISION OF INSECT POLLINATORS: THE ISRAELI FLORA AS A STUDY CASE

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              The Adaptive Significance of Sensory Bias in a Foraging Context: Floral Colour Preferences in the Bumblebee Bombus terrestris

              Innate sensory biases could play an important role in helping naïve animals to find food. As inexperienced bees are known to have strong innate colour biases we investigated whether bumblebee (Bombus terrestris) colonies with stronger biases for the most rewarding flower colour (violet) foraged more successfully in their local flora. To test the adaptive significance of variation in innate colour bias, we compared the performance of colour-naïve bees, from nine bumblebee colonies raised from local wild-caught queens, in a laboratory colour bias paradigm using violet (bee UV-blue) and blue (bee blue) artificial flowers. The foraging performance of the same colonies was assessed under field conditions. Colonies with a stronger innate bias for violet over blue flowers in the laboratory harvested more nectar per unit time under field conditions. In fact, the colony with the strongest bias for violet (over blue) brought in 41% more nectar than the colony with the least strong bias. As violet flowers in the local area produce more nectar than blue flowers (the next most rewarding flower colour), these data are consistent with the hypothesis that local variation in flower traits could drive selection for innate colour biases.
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                Author and article information

                Contributors
                +44-1392-724610 , N.Hempel@exeter.ac.uk
                Journal
                Naturwissenschaften
                Naturwissenschaften
                Die Naturwissenschaften
                Springer Berlin Heidelberg (Berlin/Heidelberg )
                0028-1042
                1432-1904
                2 January 2018
                2 January 2018
                2018
                : 105
                : 1
                Affiliations
                [1 ]ISNI 0000 0004 1764 2464, GRID grid.462378.c, School of Biology, , Indian Institute of Science Education and Research, ; Thiruvananthapuram, India
                [2 ]ISNI 0000 0004 1936 8024, GRID grid.8391.3, Centre for Research in Animal Behaviour, Department of Psychology, , University of Exeter, ; Exeter, EX4 4QG UK
                [3 ]ISNI 0000 0004 1936 7590, GRID grid.12082.39, School of Life Sciences, , University of Sussex, ; Brighton, Falmer, BN1 9QG UK
                Author notes

                Communicated by: Sven Thatje

                Article
                1531
                10.1007/s00114-017-1531-z
                5750331
                29294192
                © The Author(s) 2017

                Open Access This article is distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/), which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided you give appropriate credit to the original author(s) and the source, provide a link to the Creative Commons license, and indicate if changes were made.

                Funding
                Funded by: FundRef http://dx.doi.org/10.13039/501100000288, Royal Society;
                Funded by: FundRef http://dx.doi.org/10.13039/501100000732, UK-India Education and Research Initiative;
                Categories
                Original Paper
                Custom metadata
                © Springer-Verlag GmbH Germany, part of Springer Nature 2018

                Uncategorized

                sensory bias, learning and memory, foraging decisions, sensory ecology, pollination

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