Visual regulation of ground speed and headwind compensation in freely flying honey bees (Apis mellifera L.)

Andrew Barron*, Mandyam V. Srinivasan

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

54 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

There is now increasing evidence that honey bees regulate their ground speed in flight by holding constant the speed at which the image of the environment moves across the eye (optic flow). We have investigated the extent to which ground speed is affected by headwinds. Honey bees were trained to enter a tunnel to forage at a sucrose feeder placed at its far end. Ground speeds in the tunnel were recorded while systematically varying the visual texture of the tunnel, and the strength of headwinds experienced by the flying bees. We found that in a flight tunnel bees used visual cues to maintain their ground speed, and adjusted their air speed to maintain a constant rate of optic flow, even against headwinds which were, at their strongest, 50% of a bee's maximum recorded forward velocity. Manipulation of the visual texture revealed that headwind is compensated almost fully even when the optic flow cues are very sparse and subtle, demonstrating the robustness of this visual flight control system. We discuss these findings in the context of field observations of flying bees.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)978-984
Number of pages7
JournalJournal of Experimental Biology
Volume209
Issue number5
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - Mar 2006
Externally publishedYes

Keywords

  • Apis mellifera
  • Ground speed
  • Honey bee
  • Optic flow
  • Wind tunnel

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