One persistent question in animal navigation is how animals follow habitual routes between their home and a food source. Our current understanding of insect navigation suggests an interplay between visual memories, collision avoidance and path integration, the continuous integration of distance and direction travelled. However, these behavioural modules have to be continuously updated with instantaneous visual information. In order to alleviate this need, the insect could learn and replicate habitual movements (“movement memories”) around objects (e.g. a bent trajectory around an object) to reach its destination. We investigated whether bumblebees, Bombus terrestris, learn and use movement memories en route to their home. Using a novel experimental paradigm, we habituated bumblebees to establish a habitual route in a flight tunnel containing “invisible” obstacles. We then confronted them with conflicting cues leading to different choice directions depending on whether they rely on movement or visual memories. The results suggest that they use movement memories to navigate, but also rely on visual memories to solve conflicting situations. We investigated whether the observed behaviour was due to other guidance systems, such as path integration or optic flow-based flight control, and found that neither of these systems was sufficient to explain the behaviour.

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