Behaviour 2019
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Can bees learn from beetles? Social learning across insect orders
Elinor M. Lichtenberg, Michelle Vohs, Alejandra Gage, Pablo A. Lopez, Marie Muniz. University of North Texas, Denton, TX, United States

Bees show striking abilities to decide where, what, and how to find food through social learning from other bees. For example, bumble bees observe flower visitation by other bees to learn which flowering plant species, and even individual flowers, currently provide nectar. Wild bees frequently interact not only with other bees, but also with flower-visiting beetles, flies, wasps and butterflies. This raises the possibility that bees use diverse flower visitors as sources of social information. We tested this hypothesis by determining whether the bumble bee species Bombus impatiens associates lady beetles with food both before and after having an opportunity to learn this association. Bumble bees did not innately recognize lady beetles as sources of information about food. However, they were able to learn to associate lady beetles with the presence or absence of food. Our results show that social learning can happen across insect orders and functional groups. They also suggest that foraging bees use a broader array of information sources than has been previously recognized.