Video_5_The Dominant Role of Visual Motion Cues in Bumblebee Flight Control Revealed Through Virtual Reality.MP4
Flying bees make extensive use of optic flow: the apparent motion in the visual scene generated by their own movement. Much of what is known about bees' visually-guided flight comes from experiments employing real physical objects, which constrains the types of cues that can be presented. Here we implement a virtual reality system allowing us to create the visual illusion of objects in 3D space. We trained bumblebees, Bombus ignitus, to feed from a static target displayed on the floor of a flight arena, and then observed their responses to various interposing virtual objects. When a virtual floor was presented above the physical floor, bees were reluctant to descend through it, indicating that they perceived the virtual floor as a real surface. To reach a target at ground level, they flew through a hole in a virtual surface above the ground, and around an elevated virtual platform, despite receiving no reward for avoiding the virtual obstacles. These behaviors persisted even when the target was made (unrealistically) visible through the obstructing object. Finally, we challenged the bees with physically impossible ambiguous stimuli, which give conflicting motion and occlusion cues. In such cases, they behaved in accordance with the motion information, seemingly ignoring occlusion.