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Appetitive olfactory learning and memory in the honeybee depend on sugar reward identity

Lookup NU author(s): Dr Nicola Simcock, Dr Helen GrayORCiD, Professor Geraldine Wright



This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License (CC BY 4.0).


© 2017 The Authors. One of the most important tasks of the brain is to learn and remember information associated with food. Studies in mice and Drosophila have shown that sugar rewards must be metabolisable to form lasting memories, but few other animals have been studied. Here, we trained adult, worker honeybees (Apis mellifera) in two olfactory tasks (massed and spaced conditioning) known to affect memory formation to test how the schedule of reinforcement and the nature of a sugar reward affected learning and memory. The antennae and mouthparts of honeybees were most sensitive to sucrose but glucose and fructose were equally phagostimulatory. Whether or not bees could learn the tasks depended on sugar identity and concentration. However, only bees rewarded with glucose or sucrose formed robust long-term memory. This was true for bees trained in both the massed and spaced conditioning tasks. Honeybees fed with glucose or fructose exhibited a surge in haemolymph sugar of greater than 120. mM within 30. s that remained elevated for as long as 20. min after a single feeding event. For bees fed with sucrose, this change in haemolymph glucose and fructose occurred with a 30. s delay. Our data showed that olfactory learning in honeybees was affected by sugar identity and concentration, but that olfactory memory was most strongly affected by sugar identity. Taken together, these data suggest that the neural mechanisms involved in memory formation sense rapid changes in haemolymph glucose that occur during and after conditioning.

Publication metadata

Author(s): Simcock NK, Gray H, Bouchebti S, Wright GA

Publication type: Article

Publication status: Published

Journal: Journal of Insect Physiology

Year: 2018

Volume: 106

Issue: Part 1

Pages: 71-77

Print publication date: 01/04/2018

Online publication date: 24/08/2017

Acceptance date: 23/08/2017

Date deposited: 29/09/2017

ISSN (electronic): 0022-1910

Publisher: Elsevier Ltd


DOI: 10.1016/j.jinsphys.2017.08.009


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Funder referenceFunder name
BB/M00709X/1Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC)
Wellcome Trust