Biological significance of distinguishing between similar colours in spectrally variable illumination: bumblebees (Bombus terrestris) as a case study

  title={Biological significance of distinguishing between similar colours in spectrally variable illumination: bumblebees (Bombus terrestris) as a case study},
  author={Adrian G. Dyer and Lars Chittka},
  journal={Journal of Comparative Physiology A},
  • A. Dyer, L. Chittka
  • Published 1 February 2004
  • Environmental Science, Biology
  • Journal of Comparative Physiology A
Individual bumblebees were trained to choose between rewarded target flowers and non-rewarded distractor flowers in a controlled illumination laboratory. Bees learnt to discriminate similar colours, but with smaller colour distances the frequency of errors increased. This indicates that pollen transfer might occur between flowers with similar colours, even if these colours are distinguishable. The effect of similar colours on reducing foraging accuracy of bees is evident for colour distances… 
Bumblebees (Bombus terrestris) and honeybees (Apis mellifera) prefer similar colours of higher spectral purity over trained colours
The results indicate that innate preferences for flower colours of high spectral purity in pollinators might exert selective pressure on the evolution of flower colours.
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
Innate colour preferences of the Australian native stingless bee Tetragonula carbonaria Sm.
The innate colour responses of naïve bees are tested using standard broadband reflectance stimuli representative of common flower colours, and colorimetric analyses considering hymenopteran vision and a hexagon colour space revealed a difference between test colonies, and a significant effect ofgreen contrast and an interaction effect of green contrast with spectral purity on bee choices.
Flower colour variation across a hybrid zone in Antirrhinum as perceived by bumblebee pollinators
Behavioural studies involving bumblebees and plant mixtures of parental and hybrid flower colours carefully characterized with appropriate visual models will be necessary to test the hypothesis that pollinators’ behaviour could explain the maintenance of hybrid zones between different flower colour morphs.
Insect vision models under scrutiny: what bumblebees (Bombus terrestris terrestris L.) can still tell us
Results suggest that both chromatic and achromatic contrasts affected the discriminability of colour pairs, and a better understanding of which model is more accurate under each circumstance is required to predict bee behaviour and the ecological implications of flower choice and colour.
Colour preferences of Tetragonula carbonaria Sm. stingless bees for colour morphs of the Australian native orchid Caladenia carnea
These findings demonstrate that innate preference testing of insect pollinators with artificial stimuli is replicated in a biologically significant scenario with flowers and underscore how food-deceptive orchids can receive sufficient pollinator visits to ensure pollination by having different morphs that draw on the innate preferences of bees and their ability to make decisions in a complex ecological setting.
Illumination preference, illumination constancy and colour discrimination by bumblebees in an environment with patchy light
It was found that bees with prior experience of simulated daylight but not leaf-shade illumination initially preferred to forage in simulated daylight when all artificial flowers contained rewards as well as when only one colour was rewarding, whereas bees with Prior experience of both illuminants did not exhibit this preference.
Australian native flower colours: Does nectar reward drive bee pollinator flower preferences?
No significant difference among colour categories in the frequency of high nectar reward is found, suggesting that whilst relationships between flower colour signals and nectar volume rewards have been observed at a field site in Germany, the effect is likely to be specific at a community level rather than a broad general principle.
Fine colour discrimination requires differential conditioning in bumblebees
When provided with differential conditioning where both target and distractors were present, the bees learnt to discriminate stimuli separated by a perceptually small colour distance, showing that for bees to learn fine colour discrimination tasks it is important to use differential conditioning.
Simultaneous and successive colour discrimination in the honeybee (Apis mellifera)
Discrimination of colours by bees with simultaneous viewing conditions exceeded previous estimates of what is possible considering models of photoreceptor noise measured in bees, which suggests spatial and/or temporal summation of colour signals for fine discrimination tasks.


Odour and colour information in the foraging choice behaviour of the honeybee
This work constitutes the first attempt to describe the behaviour of the honeybee race, Apis mellifera ligustica, using the postulated model, and reaffirms thus its generality.
The colour of flowers in spectrally variable illumination and insect pollinator vision
  • A. Dyer
  • Mathematics
    Journal of Comparative Physiology A
  • 1998
The results show that an illumination-dependent colour shift correlates to a decrease in the frequency of bees correctly choosing a colour to which it was trained, as well as a correlation to the rarity of some flower colours in nature.
Does bee color vision predate the evolution of flower color?
To determine the spectral receptor types through which insects saw the world 200 million years ago, members of arthropod taxa whose evolutionary lineages diverged from those of bees before there were flowers are evaluated.
Color choices by bumble bees (Bombus terrestris): innate preferences and generalization after learning
  • A. Gumbert
  • Biology
    Behavioral Ecology and Sociobiology
  • 2000
Bumble bees show innate preferences for certain colors not only prior to color learning but also after intensive learning when choosing among very different novel colors.
Colour preferences of flower-naive honeybees
Colour preferences of flower-naive honeybees Apis mellifera L. flying in an enclosure were tested for their colour preferences and were strongly correlated with flower colour and its associated nectar reward, as measured in 154 flower species.
Visual constraints in foraging bumblebees: Flower size and color affect search time and flight behavior
Evaluating the flight behavior of bumblebees searching for artificial flowers shows that foraging speed may not be limited only by factors such as prey density, flight energetics, and scramble competition, and that understanding the behavioral ecology of foraging can substantially gain from knowledge about mechanisms of visual information processing.
Floral colour diversity in plant communities, bee colour space and a null model
The results fit theoretical considerations that rare plants are under stronger selective pressure to secure pollination than common plants, and illustrates the power of linking such distinct biological traditions as community ecology and the neuroethology of bee vision.
The evolutionary adaptation of flower colours and the insect pollinators' colour vision
Straight-forward model calculations determine the optimal set of 3 spectral photoreceptor types for discrimination of floral colour signals on the basis of perceptual difference values and show good agreement with the sets of photoreceptors characterized electrophysiologically in 40 species of Hymenoptera.
Foraging dynamics of bumble bees: correlates of movements within and between plant species
It is concluded that the bees' choices were determined by a set of rules that guided them to stay with the current plant species as long as flowers were rewarding and available within close distance but to switch to another species if flowers offered low rewards or were not encountered at close range.
Catarrhine photopigments are optimized for detecting targets against a foliage background.
By treating the task of searching for food as a signal-detection task, it is shown that, of all possible combinations of cone sensitivities, the spectral positions of the actual primate pigments are optimal for finding fruit or young leaves against the background of mature leaves.