The dynamics of social learning in an insect model, the bumblebee (Bombus terrestris)

  title={The dynamics of social learning in an insect model, the bumblebee (Bombus terrestris)},
  author={Ellouise Leadbeater and Lars Chittka},
  journal={Behavioral Ecology and Sociobiology},
Bumblebees (Bombus terrestris) are attracted to those particular inflorescences where other bees are already foraging, a process known as local enhancement. Here, we use a quantitative analysis of learning in a foraging task to illustrate that this attraction can lead bees to learn more quickly which flower species are rewarding if they forage in the company of experienced conspecifics. This effect can also be elicited by model bees, rather than live demonstrators. We also show that local… 
Social transmission of nectar-robbing behaviour in bumble-bees
It is shown that nectar robbing by bumble-bees (Bombus terrestris)—an invertebrate behaviour of considerable ecological significance— has the potential to spread through a population at the accelerated rates typical of social transmission.
Bumblebee social learning can lead to suboptimal foraging choices
Social Learning in Bumblebees (Bombus impatiens): Worker Bumblebees Learn to Manipulate and Forage at Artificial Flowers by Observation and Communication within the Colony
Bumblebees that saw dead bumblebees in foraging positions, those that watched nest-mates foraging, and those that had only in-hive communication with successful foragers all foraged successfully.
Foraging Bumblebees Selectively Attend to Other Types of Bees Based on Their Reward-Predictive Value
It is shown that bumblebees Bombus terrestris learn to attend to specific types of bees based on their learned value as information-providers about reward, indicating that the transmission of social information across species can be highly selective in response to learned value of the information provider, plausibly making the phenomenon adaptive.
Observational Conditioning in Flower Choice Copying by Bumblebees (Bombus terrestris): Influence of Observer Distance and Demonstrator Movement
Bumblebees possess the capacity to learn the quality of a flower by distal observation of other foragers’ choices, confirming that social learning in bees involves more advanced processes than simple associative learning, and indicates that observational conditioning might be widespread in pollinating insects.
Single bumblebee leaving colony for first time seeks company
This work investigates whether bumblebees leaving their colony for the first time are drawn to other live bees, and tests flower-naive workers for their preferences of stimuli presented in a radial maze.
Bumble Bees (Bombus)
  • D. Goulson
  • Environmental Science
    Encyclopedia of Social Insects
  • 2021
The sight and sound of bumble bees buzzing from flower to flower is a treasured feature of our gardens, parks, and meadows through the northern spring and summer. Comprising about 250 species
Foraging bumblebees use social cues more when the task is difficult
Foraging bumblebees are able to use social and personal information to optimize foraging decisions in a flexible way and prioritized social over personal information when flower discrimination was difficult and therefore the probability of making errors was higher.
Foraging bumblebees do not rate social information above personal experience
There is no evidence that social information is particularly important when personal information fails to produce rewards (a “copy when established behaviour is unproductive” strategy), and bees used social information specifically to complement personal information.
Conspecific and Heterospecific Information Use in Bumblebees
The findings demonstrate that social learning is not a unique process limited to conspecifics and that through associative learning, interspecifically sourced information can be just as valuable as that provided by conspecial individuals.


Social Wasp (Hymenoptera: Vespidae) Foraging Behavior
A forager’s ability to learn odors and landmarks, which direct its return to foraging sites, and to associate cues such as odor or leaf damage with resource availability provide the behavioral foundation for facultative specialization by individual foragers.
Conspecifics Enhance Attraction of Vespula germanica (Hymenoptera: Vespidae) Foragers to Food Baits
The results show that the combination of meat and wasps strongly enhances the attraction of conspecific foragers, and presenting both visual and olfactory cues together leads to a wasp response that is much greater than if isolated visual or isolated o aroma cues were added, suggesting some synergistic action of both cues.
Chance and adaptation in the evolution of island bumblebee behaviour
Genetic drift, exaptation, and pleiotropy are considered as possible alternative explanations to a strictly adaptive explanation for between population behavioural differences in bumblebees.
Social Learning in Noncolonial Insects?
The use of field–based social information in eusocial foragers: local enhancement among nestmates and heterospecifics in stingless bees
This study showed that in addition to such an information‐centre strategy, social information in the field also plays an important role in individual foraging decisions in six species of stingless bee.
Do bumble bees save time when choosing novel flowers by following conspecifics
The results suggest that the presence of conspecifics on flowers has stronger effects on bees’ decision-making as the attractiveness of flowers increases, and that bees use both visual and non-visual cues to recognize conspecies on flowers.
Resource heterogeneity and patterns of movement in foraging bumblebees
The systematic foraging behavior of B. vagans workers foraging from Aconitum napellus inflorescences may be a mechanism of reducing the revisiting of just-emptied flowers.
Laboratory analysis of flower constancy in foraging bumblebees: Bombus ternarius and B. terricola
The laboratory experiments suggest that bumblebees, once conditioned, are relatively ‘constant’ foragers despite changes in resource availability.
Flower choice copying in bumblebees
It is demonstrated that bumblebees can change flower choice by observations of non-nest mates, a novel form of social learning in insects that could provide unique benefits to the colony.
The object of this study was to determine what differences existed in one small area in the feeding plants of the four common species of Bombus present, and the cause of these differences.