Acquisition of a Time-Memory in Forager Honey Bees

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Forager honey bees can associate the time of day with the presence of food at locations outside the hive. It is thought that this time-memory enables the bee to make a spatio-temporal match between its behavior and floral nectar secretion rhythms. Despite a long tradition of research, the mechanisms by which the time-memory becomes established are unknown. We investigated the influences of two experiential factors on the acquisition of time-memory: (1) the number of collecting visits made by the forager within a feeding bout during a restricted time of day and (2) the number of days of exposure to the restricted feeding time. Our results indicate that these two factors control different processes. The number of days of experience influences the temporal accuracy of reconnaissance behavior to the food source. The cumulative number of collecting visits within the feeding bouts has no apparent effect on time-accuracy but, instead, determines the probability of exhibiting food-anticipatory behavior and, if that overt behavior is performed, the intensity of its expression.