Social insects live in communities where cooperative actions heavily rely on the individual cognitive abilities of their members. In the honey bee (Apis mellifera), the specialization in nectar or pollen collection is associated with variations in gustatory sensitivity, affecting both associative and non-associative learning. Gustatory sensitivity fluctuates as a function of changes in motivation for the specific floral resource throughout the foraging cycle, yet differences in learning between nectar and pollen foragers at the onset of food collection remain unexplored. Here, we examined nectar and pollen foragers captured upon arrival at food sources. We subjected them to an olfactory proboscis extension reflex (PER) conditioning using a 10% sucrose solution paired (S10%+P) or unpaired (S10%) with pollen as a co-reinforcement. For non-associative learning, we habituated foragers with S10%+P or S10%, followed by dishabituation tests with either a 50% sucrose solution paired (S50%+P) or unpaired (S50%) with pollen. Our results indicate that pollen foragers show lower performance than nectar foragers when conditioned with S10%. Interestingly, performance improves to levels similar to those of nectar foragers when pollen is included as a rewarding stimulus (S10%+P). In non-associative learning, pollen foragers tested with S10%+P displayed a lower degree of habituation than nectar foragers and a higher degree of dishabituation when pollen was used as the dishabituating stimulus (S10%+P). Altogether, our results support the idea that pollen and nectar honey bee foragers differ in their responsiveness to rewards, leading to inter-individual differences in learning that contribute to foraging specialization.

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