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Open Access Publications from the University of California

A transferrable change in preferences of floral patterns by bumblebees through reward reversal

  • Author(s): Xu, Vicki
  • Plowright, Catherine
  • et al.
Creative Commons 'BY' version 4.0 license

This study examines the use behavioral transfer across perceptually similar stimuli in bumblebees (Bombus impatiens) and addresses whether foraging judgments about a floral stimulus can change in a way that contradicts direct previous experience with that stimulus. Twenty bees from each of four colonies underwent discrimination training of stimuli placed in a radial maze. Bees were trained to discriminate between two corresponding object and photograph pairs of artificial flowers, where one object and its corresponding photo were rewarding, while another object and its corresponding photo were unrewarding. Following discrimination training, one stimulus from each pair (either the object or the photo) was removed. The predictive reward values of the remaining stimuli were either switched for one group or stayed the same for another. Subsequent testing on the removed stimuli revealed foraging preferences to shift based on experience with the other stimulus in the group. For instance, bees treated a previously unrewarding object as rewarding after learning that the corresponding photograph had become rewarding. Foraging decisions depend not only on previous experience with stimuli, but also category membership.

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