Honeybees can use various kinds of information, including color and pattern
, in choosing flowers during foraging. We offered free-flying bees a dimorp
hic artificial patch of radial and bilateral blue/white flowers in order to
examine three hypotheses to explain the noted increase in visitation to th
e flower type offering a lower caloric reward, i.e., optical resolution, dy
slectic interpretation, and cognition related to pattern colors. When bees
were offered a color pattern rather than a simple color difference to diffe
rentiate flower types, they did not always make choices predicted by theory
. Honeybees foraged randomly on both flower morphs when rewards were equal
and chose the higher caloric reward more often when rewards were different.
However, they visited the less rewarding choice more than 33% of the time.
Increasing the size of the flower surface by doubling the dimensions did n
ot decrease visitation to the less rewarding flower type, suggesting that v
isual acuity is not the limiting factor in flower sizes used. When flower c
olors that increased contrast (yellow vs, blue) were used in the dimorphic
parch, visitation rate to the less rewarding flower type did not decline, n
or did this 'error rate' decrease when identical patterns were used with on
ly partial color differences. Adding an orientation reference on each flowe
r decreased the frequency with which the less rewarding flower type was cho
sen from 36 to 26%, possibly because foragers were induced to switch from a
global cue (e.g., patch) to a local cue (e.g.. flower). The rate with whic
h the less rewarding flower type is chosen appears to be a function of hone
ybee use of cognitive and sensory modalities, rather than limited memory an
d correlative abilities.