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How bees distinguish black from white

Authors Horridge A

Received 9 July 2014

Accepted for publication 1 August 2014

Published 31 October 2014 Volume 2014:6(1) Pages 9—17

DOI https://doi.org/10.2147/EB.S70522

Checked for plagiarism Yes

Review by Single-blind

Peer reviewer comments 3

Editor who approved publication: Professor Margaret Wong-Riley

Adrian Horridge

Biological Sciences, Australian National University, Canberra, ACT, Australia

Abstract: Bee eyes have photoreceptors for ultraviolet, green, and blue wavelengths that are excited by reflected white but not by black. With ultraviolet reflections excluded by the apparatus, bees can learn to distinguish between black, gray, and white, but theories of color vision are clearly of no help in explaining how they succeed. Human vision sidesteps the issue by constructing black and white in the brain. Bees have quite different and accessible mechanisms. As revealed by extensive tests of trained bees, bees learned two strong signals displayed on either target. The first input was the position and a measure of the green receptor modulation at the vertical edges of a black area, which included a measure of the angular width between the edges of black. They also learned the average position and total amount of blue reflected from white areas. These two inputs were sufficient to help decide which of two targets held the reward of sugar solution, but the bees cared nothing for the black or white as colors, or the direction of contrast at black/white edges. These findings provide a small step toward understanding, modeling, and implementing in silicon the anti-intuitive visual system of the honeybee, in feeding behavior.

Keywords: vision, detectors, black/white, color, visual processing

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