Behaviour 2019
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Variation in learning ability across colony developmental stage in bumble bees (Bombus impatiens
Tian H Manning , Matthew W Austin , Aimee S Dunlap. University of Missouri Saint Louis , Saint Louis , MO, United States

All animals differ in aspects of their cognitive abilities and the general hypothesis is that these differences reflect adaptations to their natural environment. Bumble bees forage in a competitive floral market where their ability to track temporal variations in their environment can be crucial for their colony’s survival and the successful production of reproductives. For this reason, it is important to examine variation within and between colonies for relevant behaviors as well as temporal behavioral trends across colony development. We determined this by testing nine colonies of bumble bees (Bombus impatiens) in a simple color discrimination learning task at various times throughout each colony’s development. The temporal trends in behavioral plasticity of each colony is then analyzed in conjunction with age and body size. Due to increased competition for a wide array of floral resources later in the season, we predict that learning scores will increase as the colonies get older and larger. We present results on the effects of body size, age, and colony development stage on simple learning within and across colonies.