Bumblebees vs Robot Spiders

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Bumblebees vs Robot Spiders
« on: September 06, 2008, 05:27:36 PM »
Bumblebees vs Robot Spiders

news item describes some recent research into predator avoidance
learning in bees. Researchers used tiny robot spiders in a variety of
camouflaged colors in a simulated meadow of flowers to see how bees
would react. The simplistic "robots" were modeled after the crab spider,
a deadly predator of bumblebees. Each robot consisted of a solenoid that
actuated two "trap pads" that would grab a bee that landed between them.
Bees that had close calls with the spiders learned to be more careful
and were successful at avoiding even well hidden spiders on future foraging
trips. The downside to this adaptive foraging behavior is that the bees
spent more time hovering in front of flowers, checking for predators,
reducing the amount of pollination. The bees also began to completely
avoid areas of the meadow where they spotted lots of predators, which
suggests the plants themselves will suffer from predator infestation.
For all the details see the research paper, Speed-Accuracy
Tradeoffs and False Alarms in Bee Responses to Cryptic Predators
(PDF format). This research was done by Lars
Chittka and Tom
Ings of the QMUL Bee
Sensory and Behavioural Echology Lab.



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