A bee in a corridor: centering and wall-following

  • Serres Julien
  • Ruffier Franck
  • Masson Guillaume P.
  • Franceschini Nicolas


The mechanism underlying lateral collision avoidance in flying insects was investigated by training honeybees (Apis Mellifera) to fly through a wide rectangular tunnel (95cm-wide, 300cm-long, 25cm-height). We found that depending on the entrance (EL, EC, or ER) and feeder (FL, FC, or FR) positions, honeybees would either center along the corridor midline or fly along one wall. Bees kept following one wall even when a major (150cm-long) part of the opposite wall was removed. These findings cannot be accounted for by the “optic flow balance” hypothesis that was put forward to explain the typical bees’ “centering response” observed in narrower corridors (12cm-wide, Srinivasan et al., 1991). Both centering and wall-following behaviours are well accounted for, however, by a mechanism called an optic flow regulator (Franceschini et al., Current Biology 2007), i.e., a feedback system that strives to maintain the unilateral optic flow constant (Serres et al., Aut. Rob. 2008). This mechanism would allow the bee to guide itself visually in a corridor without measuring its speed and distance from the walls.