Submitted to: Naturwissenschaften
Publication Type: Peer Reviewed Journal
Publication Acceptance Date: 9/11/2009
Publication Date: 10/20/2010
Citation: Couvillon, M.J., Hoffman, G.D., Gronenberg, W. 2010. Africanized honey bees are slower learners than their European counterparts. Naturwissenschaften. 97:153-160.
Interpretive Summary: The range of Africanized honeybees (AHB) continues to expand, replacing European honeybees (EHB)in the southern United States. Are AHBs successful because they are better than EHB at learning and also have better memories? Being able to quickly associate an odor with food such as nectar or pollen is essential for efficient foraging. A good memory is important for remembering the location of flowers and the way back to the nest. We conducted a series of experiments comparing EHB and AHB for their ability to learn to associate odor and nectar reward and remember the information 24 hours later. Surprisingly, the experiment revealed that fewer AHBs learn to associate an odor with a reward compared with EHB. AHB are also worse at remembering the association a day later. Therefore, AHBs are replacing EHBs in spite of being slower learners with poorer memories.
Technical Abstract: The range of Africanized honeybees continues to expand, superseding the common European honeybees in the southern United States. Are superior learning and memory the reason for their ecological success? Surprisingly, a comparison in a classical conditioning test of the two bee races shows that fewer Africanized honeybees learn to associate an odor with a reward, and they are also worse at remembering the association a day later. Therefore, Africanized honeybees are replacing European honeybees in spite of being "dumber".