Assessment of predation risk and avoidance learning
Gould (1987) trained honeybees to avoid landing at certain locations. He used a radially symmetrical mechanical flower with six petals, but allowed the bees to land on only one "correct" petal, either the lower right or lower left one. Solenoids mounted behind each of the petals caused the petals to flick forward, scaring off any bee that landed on a "wrong" petal. Although naive bees strongly preferred landing on the bottom petal, trained bees showed significant preference for landing on the correct petal. Gould's study may illustrate a bee's ability to avoid landing at dangerous locations, but the alternative that bees simply learned to land where they had been rewarded cannot be rejected. My own preliminary experiments with a similar mechanical flower strongly suggested that honeybees showed avoidance learning: during calibration of the solenoids' power, I found that a violent flicking of the petals caused the bees to avoid the flower altogether rather than a specific petal as I had wished. Some of these bees returned to the flower vicinity and hovered near the petals but failed to land. Other well-controlled experiments clearly documented avoidance learning by honeybees (Abramson 1986; Smith et al.
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