Low-level vision and navigation in honeybees:

The streamlining response in honeybees

Here we study a 'streamlining' response in honeybees, whereby honeybees raise their abdomen to reduce drag.

The results indicate that:
The 'streamlining' response, which was recently reported to be mediated by optic flow, is also strongly modulated by the presence of air flow simulating a head wind. The Johnston's organs in the antennae were found to play a role in the measurement of the air speed that is used to control the streamlining response.

We propose this multisensory integration will make the response more robust to transient disturbances. This method of regulating abdomen position based on multi-sensory cues could be used to inform the design of energy efficient unmanned aerial vehicles.

More information on this ongoing study is available here:
G.J. Taylor, T. Luu, D.Ball and M.V. Srinivasan (2013)
Vision and air flow combine to streamline flying honeybees.
Scientific Reports 3 : 2614. DOI: 10.1038/srep02614

Landing: The final moments before touchdown

We have been investigating the sensory cues that honeybees use to guide the final moments of their landings.

The results indicate that:
Bees come to a near-stationary hover 10-15mm from the landing surface, regardless of the tilt of the surface. During this hover phase the antennae are oriented approximately perpendicularly to the surface, independently of its tilt.The positions of the tips of the six feet and the antennae just prior to landing all lie in a plane inclined at approximately 60 deg to the horizontal, so that they will all contact a surface simultaneously when the surface has this inclination. Thus, it appears that the bee's 'undercarriage' is designed for landing on substrates that are tilted at approximately 60 deg to the horizontal.

More information on this ongoing study is available here:
C. Evangelista, P. Kraft, M. Dacke, J. Reinhard and M.V. Srinivasan (2010)
The moment before touchdown: Landing manoeuvres of the honeybee Apis mellifera.
Journal of Experimental Biology 213, 262-270.