bees, honey and other sticky subjects

Tuesday, August 10, 2004

Night bees see clearly

I'd never even heard about nocturnal bees until I read this short summary about their navigational powers in the dark.

Eric Warrant of the University of Lund, Sweden, has studied the Central American halictid bee, Megalopta genalis on on Barro Colorado Island in Panama.

... the researchers used infrared night-imaging cameras to show that by performing special orientation flights, Megalopta visually learns landmarks around the nest entrance prior to foraging and uses these landmarks to locate the nest upon return. ... if landmarks were moved to a nearby site while the bee was away, upon her return she intently searched for her nest in the landmark-bearing, but wrong, location.

Despite this impressive behavioral sensitivity ... Megalopta's eyes are only about 30 times more sensitive to light than those of day-active honeybees, woefully inadequate to account for Megalopta's nocturnal homing abilities. ... specialized visual cells in the bee's brain had morphologies suited to summing light signals and intensifying the received image.


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