A bumblebee (Bombus terrestris) and a honeybee (Apis mellifera) foraging from the same sunflower inflorescence (Helianthus annuus). (Credit: Photograph by A. Jaithirtha, Dawson et al; doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0031444.g003)
ScienceDaily (Feb. 14, 2012) — Bumblebees can use cues from their rivals the honeybees to learn where the best food resources are, according to new research from Queen Mary, University of London.
Writing in the journal PLoS ONE, the team from Queen Mary's School of Biological and Chemical Sciences explain how they trained a colony of bumblebees (Bombus terrestris) to use cues provided by a different species, the honeybee (Apis mellifera), as well as cues provided by fellow bumblebees to locate food resources on artificial flowers.
They found that the bumblebees were able to learn the information from the honeybees just as efficiently as when the information came from their own species, demonstrating that social learning is not a unique process limited members of the same species.
PhD student Erika Dawson, explains: "Most social learning research has focused on learning between members of the same species. But in the same way that human engineers can pick up useful tricks from animals (such as using bird aerodynamics to design planes), animals might of course learn from different species where the best food is, where predation looms or where the best place to nest can be found.
Read the rest of the journal article here.