Bees recall past experiences before collecting pollen: Study

Washington D.C. [USA], Nov. 8 : A recent study has found that bees make an overall sensory assessment of their experience at a particular flower before deciding, where to forage for pollen.

According to the University of Exeter study, they recall memory of previous experiences and use a variety of senses before collecting pollen.

The researchers believe pollen-collecting bees do not base their foraging decisions on taste alone, but instead make an "overall sensory assessment" of their experience at a particular flower.

Bees typically do not eat pollen when they collect it from flowers, but carry it back to the nest via special "sacs" on their legs or hairs on their body.

Co-author Natalie Hempel de Ibarra, said: "It seems that bees don't just respond to a single nutritional compound in pollen, such as crude protein content, but to a range of sensory cues in pollen and flowers.

"They also form memories for locations and types of flowers that they have visited which affect their foraging decisions," Ibarra added, saying, "We need more research that considers the behaviour and neurobiology of bees to understand when and why they prefer some plants and some pollen over others"

"A breakthrough in this area could advance our efforts in both biodiversity conservation and crop production," the researcher continued.

The review examines existing evidence on how bees use their senses, previous experience and, in the case of social bees, feedback from the nest to decide where to gather pollen.

First author Elizabeth Nicholls said: "Our review is unique in considering pollen foraging from an individual bee's perspective, asking which senses bees use to decide which flowers are worth visiting."

"In our review we suggest that although bees may taste pollen during collection and use this nutritional information to guide their choices, they are also likely to pay attention to the strong odour and visual appearance of both pollen and the flower itself," Nicholls added, "For bees that live together in colonies, information passed on from the other bees in the nest, either via chemical cues or even special 'dances', may also be important in influencing their pollen-collecting behaviour."

On a related note, the University of Exeter is a major hub for bee and pollination research and currently advertising several postgraduate research projects.

The study has been published in the journal Functional Ecology. (ANI)