Brief Communications

Nature 424, 388 (24 July 2003) | doi:10.1038/424388a

Psychophysics: Bees trade off foraging speed for accuracy

Lars Chittka1,2, Adrian G. Dyer1,3, Fiola Bock1 & Anna Dornhaus1,4

Bees have an impressive cognitive capacity1, 2, 3, 4, but the strategies used by individuals in solving foraging tasks have been largely unexplored. Here we test bumblebees (Bombus terrestris) in a colour-discrimination task on a virtual flower meadow and find that some bees consistently make rapid choices but with low precision, whereas other bees are slower but highly accurate. Moreover, each bee will sacrifice speed in favour of accuracy when errors are penalized instead of just being unrewarded. To our knowledge, bees are the first example of an insect to show between-individual and within-individual speed– accuracy trade-offs.

  1. Zoologie II, Biozentrum, Universität Würzburg, Am Hubland, 97074 Würzburg, Germany
  2. Biological Sciences, Queen Mary, University of London, London E1 4NS, UK
  3. School of Orthoptics, Faculty of Health Sciences, La Trobe University, Bundoora, Victoria 3086, Australia
  4. School of Biological Sciences, University of Bristol, Woodland Road, Bristol BS8 1UG, UK

Correspondence to: Lars Chittka1,2 Email: