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      Strategies of the honeybee Apis mellifera during visual search for vertical targets presented at various heights: a role for spatial attention?

      F1000 Research, Ltd.

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          When honeybees are presented with a colour discrimination task, they tend to choose swiftly and accurately when objects are presented in the ventral part of their frontal visual field. In contrast, poor performance is observed when objects appear in the dorsal part. Here we investigate if this asymmetry is caused by fixed search patterns or if bees can use alternative search mechanisms such as spatial attention, which allows flexible focusing on different areas of the visual field. We asked individual honeybees to choose an orange rewarded target among blue distractors. Target and distractors were presented in the ventral visual field, the dorsal field or both. Bees presented with targets in the ventral visual field consistently had the highest search efficiency, with rapid decisions, high accuracy and direct flight paths. In contrast, search performance for dorsally located targets was inaccurate and slow at the beginning of the test phase, but bees increased their search performance significantly after a few learning trials: they found the target faster, made fewer errors and flew in a straight line towards the target. However, bees needed thrice as long to improve the search for a dorsally located target when the target's position changed randomly between the ventral and the dorsal visual field. We propose that honeybees form expectations of the location of the target's appearance and adapt their search strategy accordingly. Different possible mechanisms of this behavioural adaptation are discussed.

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