The effects of genotype, foraging role, and sucrose responsiveness on the tactile learning performance of honey bees (Apis mellifera L.)

Ricarda Scheiner, Robert E. Page, Joachim Erber

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

132 Scopus citations


We analyzed sucrose responsiveness and associative tactile learning in two genetic strains of honey bees under laboratory conditions. These strains differ in their foraging behavior. Bees of the "high" strain preferentially collect pollen. "Low"-strain bees mainly forage for nectar. Responsiveness to different sucrose concentrations and tactile learning were examined using the proboscis extension reflex. Acquisition, extinction of conditioned responses, and responses to an alternative tactile stimulus were tested. High-strain bees are more responsive to sucrose than low-strain bees. Regardless of genotype, pollen foragers are more responsive to sucrose than nectar foragers. In bees of both strains we find the same relationship between responsiveness to sucrose and acquisition. Bees responding to low sucrose concentrations show more often the conditioned response during acquisition than those responding only to higher sucrose concentrations. Extinction of conditioned responses depends on the response probability during acquisition. Discrimination between the two tactile stimuli is affected by genotype but not by responsiveness to sucrose. High-strain bees discriminate better than low-strain bees. Our experiments thus establish links between division of labor, responsiveness to sucrose, and associative learning in honey bees.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)138-150
Number of pages13
JournalNeurobiology of Learning and Memory
Issue number2
StatePublished - Jan 1 2001


ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology
  • Cognitive Neuroscience
  • Behavioral Neuroscience

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