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How bumblebees use lateral and ventral optic flow cues for position control in environments of different proximity

Linander, Nellie, Baird, Emily, Dacke, Marie
Journal of comparative physiology 2017 v.203 no.5 pp. 343-351
Bombus terrestris, eyes, flight, insects, risk, translation (genetics)
Flying insects frequently navigate through environments of different complexity. In this study, buff-tailed bumblebees (Bombus terrestris L.) were trained to fly along tunnels of different widths, from 60 to 240 cm. In tunnel widths of 60 and 120 cm, bumblebees control their lateral position by balancing the magnitude of translational optic flow experienced in the lateral visual field of each eye. In wider tunnels, bumblebees use translational optic flow cues in the ventral visual field to control their lateral position and to steer along straight tracks. Our results also suggest that bumblebees prefer to fly over surfaces that provide strong ventral optic flow cues, rather than over featureless ones. Together, these strategies allow bumblebees to minimize the risk of collision and to maintain relatively straight flight paths in a broad range of environments.