Mira C. Becker, Wolfgang Rössler, and Martin Fritz Strube-Bloss
Honeybees use visual and olfactory cues to detect flowers during foraging trips. Hence, the reward association of a nectar source is a multimodal construct which has at least two major components – olfactory and visual cues. How both sensory modalities are integrated to form a common reward association and whether and how they may interfere, is an open question. The present study used stimulation with UV, blue and green light to evoke distinct photoreceptor activities in the compound eye and two odour components (geraniol, citronellol). To test if a compound of both modalities is perceived as the sum of its elements (elemental processing) or as a unique cue (configural processing), we combined monochromatic light with single odour components in positive (PP) and negative patterning (NP) experiments. During PP, the compound of two modalities was rewarded, whereas the single elements were not. For NP, stimuli comprising a single modality were rewarded, whereas the olfactory-visual compound was not. Furthermore, we compared the differentiation abilities between two light stimuli that were or were not part of an olfactory–visual compound. Interestingly, the behavioural performances revealed a prominent case of configural processing, but only in those cases when UV light was an element of an olfactory–visual compound. Instead, learning with green- and blue-containing compounds rather supports elemental processing theory.