Honeybees Use Multiple Invariants to Control Their Altitude

  • Berger Dauxère Aimie
  • Montagne Gilles
  • Serres Julien R

  • Insects
  • Altitude control
  • Optical invariant
  • Ecological approach
  • Ground-following task
  • Optic flow


How do bees perceive altitude changes so as to produce safe displacements within their environment? It has been proved that humans use invariants, but this concept remains little-known within the entomology community. The use of a single invariant, the optical speed rate of change, has been extensively demonstrated in bees in a ground-following task. Recently, it has been demonstrated that another invariant, the splay angle rate of change, could also be used by bees to adjust their altitude. This study aims to understand how bees use these invariants when they are available simultaneously. This issue has been addressed using an experimental setup providing discordant information to bees. We have shown that when the two invariants were available, bees performed ground-following tasks relying primarily on optical speed rate of change. Conversely, when optical speed rate of change was less easily accessible, splay angle rate of change was prioritized, unless the bees perceive danger. Taken together, these results illustrate how the joint use of several invariants allows bees to produce adaptive behaviors.