Olfactory associative behavioral differences in three honey bee Apis mellifera L. races under the arid zone ecosystem of central Saudi Arabia

Javaid Iqbal, Hussain Ali, Ayman A. Owayss, Hael S.A. Raweh, Michael S. Engel, Abdulaziz S. Alqarni, Brian Smith

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

15 Scopus citations


Apis mellifera jemenitica is the indigenous race of honey bees in the Arabian Peninsula and is tolerant to local drought conditions. Experiments were undertaken to determine the differences in associative learning and memory of honey bee workers living in the arid zone of Saudi Arabia, utilizing the proboscis extension response (PER). These experiments were conducted on the indigenous race (A. m. jemenitica) along with two introduced European races (A. m. carnica and A. m. ligustica). The data revealed that A. m. jemenitica is amenable to PER conditioning and may be used in conditioning experiments within the olfactory behavioral paradigm. The results also demonstrated that the three races learn and retain information with different capacities relative to each other during the experimental time periods. Native Arabian bees (A. m. jemenitica) exhibited significantly lower PER percentage during second and third conditioning trials when compared to exotic races. Apis mellifera jemenitica also exhibited reduced memory retention at 2 h and 24 h when compared to A. m. carnica and A. m. ligustica. Therefore, the native Arabian bees were relatively slow learners with reduced memory retention compared to the other two races that showed similar learning and memory retention. Three or five conditioning trials and monthly weather conditions (October and December) had no significant effects on learning and memory in A. m. jemenitica. These results emphasized a novel line of research to explore the mechanism and differences in associative learning as well as other forms of learning throughout the year among bee races in the harsh arid conditions of Saudi Arabia. This is the first study in Saudi Arabia to demonstrate inter-race differences regarding olfactory associative learning between native Arabian bees and two introduced European honey bee races.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)563-568
Number of pages6
JournalSaudi Journal of Biological Sciences
Issue number3
StatePublished - Mar 2019


  • Associative learning
  • Honey bee races
  • Memory formation
  • Olfaction
  • Proboscis extension response
  • Saudi Arabia

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Agricultural and Biological Sciences(all)


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