Dr. Aimee Dunlap
Final Abstract for URS Program
What do bees remember about flowers? These memories are important for both bees and flowers. The bees have better foraging success and gain more nectar and pollen from flowers when they remember the most rewarding flower types. More memorable flowers will be visited more frequently, resulting in more successful pollination for the plant. At the same time, bees can also learn about flowers from other bees and may remember this information differently. We are training and testing three floral cues and a single social cue to see how the different types of cues affect their learning and memory of rewarding flower types. Testing is being done by rewarding the bee for foraging on a specific floral or social cue while discouraging foraging of the control flower. A reward is high percentage sugar solution while discouraging is done through water. When the bee drinks the high percentage sugar solution it should observe the cue associated with the reward and use that information to forage on flowers of the same type. Once a cue has been learned the bee will be removed for a period of time and then tested again to observe memory length and foraging efficiency.
This research is significant because it will provide insights into bumble bee pollination behavior. Pollination is an essential aspect of ecosystem health ranging from wildflowers to agriculture. Observing this behavior will help us understand more efficient methods to preserve pollinator health as vital contributors to the environment.