Olfactory memory formation and the influence of reward pathway during appetitive learning by honey bees

Geraldine A. Wright, Julie A. Mustard, Sonya M. Kottcamp, Brian Smith

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

39 Scopus citations


Animals possess the ability to assess food quality via taste and via changes in state that occur after ingestion. Here, we investigate the extent to which a honey bee's ability to assess food quality affected the formation of association with an odor stimulus and the retention of olfactory memories associated with reward. We used three different conditioning protocols in which the unconditioned stimulus (food) was delivered as sucrose stimulation to the proboscis (mouthparts), the antennae or to both proboscis and antennae. All means of delivery of the unconditioned stimulus produced robust associative conditioning with an odor. However, the memory of a conditioned odor decayed at a significantly greater rate for subjects experiencing antennal-only stimulation after either multiple- or single-trial conditioning. Finally, to test whether the act of feeding on a reward containing sucrose during conditioning affected olfactory memory formation, we conditioned honey bees to associate an odor with antennal stimulation with sucrose followed by feeding on a water droplet. We observed that a honey bee's ability to recall the conditioned odor was not significantly different from that of subjects conditioned with an antennal-only sucrose stimulus. Our results show that stimulation of the sensory receptors on the proboscis and/or ingestion of the sucrose reward during appetitive olfactory conditioning are necessary for long-term memory formation.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)4024-4033
Number of pages10
JournalJournal of Experimental Biology
Issue number22
StatePublished - Nov 2007


  • Apis mellifera
  • Associative learning
  • Gustation
  • Memory consolidation
  • Post-ingestive feedback

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Physiology
  • Aquatic Science
  • Animal Science and Zoology
  • Molecular Biology
  • Insect Science


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