Foraging Bumblebees Selectively Attend to Other Types of Bees Based on Their Reward-Predictive Value
Romero-González, Jose E.; Royka, Amanda L.; MaBouDi, HaDi; Solvi, Cwyn; Seppänen, Janne-Tuomas; Loukola, Olli J. (2020). Foraging Bumblebees Selectively Attend to Other Types of Bees Based on Their Reward-Predictive Value. Insects, 11 (11), 800. DOI: 10.3390/insects11110800
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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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Additional information about fundingJ.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.
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