Data_Sheet_1_Naïve and Experienced Honeybee Foragers Learn Normally Configured Flowers More Easily Than Non-configured or Highly Contrasted Flowers.pdf
Angiosperms have evolved to attract and/or deter specific pollinators. Flowers provide signals and cues such as scent, colour, size, pattern, and shape, which allow certain pollinators to more easily find and visit the same type of flower. Over evolutionary time, bees and angiosperms have co-evolved resulting in flowers being more attractive to bee vision and preferences, and allowing bees to recognise specific flower traits to make decisions on where to forage. Here we tested whether bees are instinctively tuned to process flower shape by training both flower-experienced and flower-naïve honeybee foragers to discriminate between pictures of two different flower species when images were either normally configured flowers or flowers which were scrambled in terms of spatial configuration. We also tested whether increasing picture contrast, to make flower features more salient, would improve or impair performance. We used four flower conditions: (i) normally configured greyscale flower pictures, (ii) scrambled flower configurations, (iii) high contrast normally configured flowers, and (iv) asymmetrically scrambled flowers. While all flower pictures contained very similar spatial information, both experienced and naïve bees were better able to learn to discriminate between normally configured flowers than between any of the modified versions. Our results suggest that a specialisation in flower recognition in bees is due to a combination of hard-wired neural circuitry and experience-dependent factors.