Differences in spatial resolution and contrast sensitivity of flight control in the honeybees Apis cerana and Apis mellifera [RESEARCH ARTICLE]

Aravin Chakravarthi, Santosh Rajus, Almut Kelber, Marie Dacke, and Emily Baird

Visually-guided behaviour is constrained by the capacity of the visual system to resolve detail. This is, in turn, limited by the spatial resolution and contrast sensitivity of the underlying visual system. Because these properties are interdependent and vary non-uniformly, it is only possible to fully understand the limits of a specific visually guided behaviour when they are investigated in combination. To understand the visual limits of flight control in bees, which rely heavily on vision to control flight, and to explore whether they vary between species, we tested how changes in spatial resolution and contrast sensitivity affect the speed and position control of the Asian and European honeybees (Apis cerana and A. mellifera). Despite their apparent similarity, we found some interesting and surprising differences between the visual limits of these species. While the effect of spatial frequency and contrast on position control is similar between the species, ground speed is differently affected by these variables. A comparison with published data from the bumblebee Bombus terrestris reveals further differences. The visual resolution that limits the detection and use of optic flow for flight control in both species of honeybees is lower than previously anatomically determined resolution and differs from object detection limits of A. mellifera, providing evidence that the limits of spatial resolution and contrast sensitivity are highly tuned to the particular behavioural task of a species.

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