Actual vs perceived profitability: A study of floral choice of honey bees

Keith D. Waddington, Natasha Gottlieb

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

51 Scopus citations


The relationship between actual and perceived profitability was investigated by quantifying choice behavior of foraging honey bees (Apis mellifera). Rate of net energy gain was used as a measure of profitability. Individual bees repeatedly chose between a yellow and a blue tubular artificial flower which had different associated profitabilities. Handling costs were manipulated by using flowers of different depth;energy gains were manipulated by using different volumes of a 20% (w/w) sucrose solution. Bees' discrimination between the two flowers increased as the absolute difference in profitabilities increased and discrimination decreased as profitabilities of both flowers increased. Therefore, discrimination depended on the relative difference in profitability between flowers, and therefore, perception was a nonlinear function of actual rates of net energy gain. The results also suggested that motivation to choose between flowers depended on the level of profitability. We suggest that nonlinear perceptual scales and motivation should be incorporated into models of food choice as constraints and should be considered in the design of experiments used to test predictions of models and in the interpretation of experimental results.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)429-441
Number of pages13
JournalJournal of Insect Behavior
Issue number4
StatePublished - Jul 1 1990


  • choice behavior
  • foraging
  • honey bees
  • perceptual scales
  • profitability

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Insect Science
  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics


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