We used the proboscis extension reflex of honeybees to test their ability to discriminate between comb waxes of different ages (wax scales, 1-week-old wax, 2- to 3-year-old wax, 8- to 10-year-old wax). Such waxes differ in their chemical composition, and an ability to discriminate between them may aid the orientation of the bees in the nest. To train the bees, we used whole extracts of waxes and four different fractions of the whole extract based on different elutions of solid-phase extractions (extract I, fraction A eluted with hexane and fraction B with diethylether; extract II, fraction B further subdivided into fraction C by elution with isopropylchloride and fraction D by elution with diethylether). In a differential training regime (six learning and six test trials) with whole extracts or with the different fractions, we paired one type of wax with a reward and another with no reward. The bees learned to discriminate between all tested pairs of whole extracts. The two subfractions (fractions A and B) gave different results: the bees could discriminate between waxes of different ages when fraction B was used but not when fraction A was used. A further subdivision of fraction B into fractions C and D showed that only fraction D contained the elements that enabled bees to discriminate between old and new wax. Fraction D makes up only 5?8 % of the total wax mass and contains hydroxy alkyl esters (5?6 % of the total wax mass), primary alcohols (0.3?0.5 % of the total wax mass) and acids (0.06?1. 0 % of the total wax mass). Fractions A and C (together forming 62?64 % of the total wax mass), which consist of unbranched and branched aliphatic hydrocarbons and alkyl esters, could not be discriminated by the bees. The remaining wax mass (25?29 %) was eluted with a mixture of chloroform, methanol and water (13:5:1) as fraction E.
Comb-wax discrimination by honeybees tested with the proboscis extension reflex
B. Frohlich, M. Riederer, J. Tautz; Comb-wax discrimination by honeybees tested with the proboscis extension reflex. J Exp Biol 15 May 2000; 203 (10): 1581–1587. doi: https://doi.org/10.1242/jeb.203.10.1581
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The Forest of Biologists
We are excited to announce the launch of The Forest of Biologists, a new biodiversity initiative created with support from the Woodland Trust, aiming to counteract nature loss and safeguard some of the most critically endangered ecosystems for future generations. For every Research Article and Review/Commentary article that is published in JEB (and our sister journals Development, Journal of Cell Science, Disease Models & Mechanisms and Biology Open), a native tree is planted in a forest in the UK.
Celebrating 100 years of discovery
We are proud to be celebrating 100 years of discovery in Journal of Experimental Biology. Visit our centenary webpage to find out more about how we are marking this historic milestone.
Looking back on the first issue of JEB
Journal of Experimental Biology launched in 1923 as The British Journal of Experimental Biology. As we celebrate our centenary, we look back at that first issue and the zoologists publishing their work in the new journal.
In our new Conversation series JEB@100, JEB Editor-in-Chief Craig Franklin talks about the big outstanding questions in the field of physiological plasticity and why he thinks a sense of community is key to the journal's success. Find out more here.
Surface friction alters the agility of a small Australian marsupial
Matthew Eizenga and colleagues have discovered that Mexican fruit flies vanish in a blur in the eyes of predatory spiders when they wave their wings at the arachnids, buying the flies time to make their escape.
Propose new workshop for 2025
Do you have an idea for a Workshop? We are now accepting proposals for our 2025 Biologists Workshops programme. As the scientific organiser, your involvement will be focused on the science. We'll take care of all the logistics. In 2025 we'll continue our efforts to diversify our Workshop programme and will be reserving one of our Workshops for an application from a Global South (GS) country to host an event overseas.