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Honey bees possess a polarity-sensitive magnetoreceptor A Neuroethology, sensory, neural, and behavioral physiology

Lambinet, Veronika, Hayden, Michael E., Reid, Chloe, Gries, Gerhard
Journal of comparative physiology 2017 v.203 no.12 pp. 1029-1036
Apis mellifera, foraging, geophysics, glass, honey bees, magnetic fields, sugars
Honey bees, Apis mellifera, exploit the geomagnetic field for orientation during foraging and for alignment of their combs within hives. We tested the hypothesis that honey bees sense the polarity of magnetic fields. We created an engineered magnetic anomaly in which the magnetic field generally either converged toward a sugar reward in a watch glass, or away from it. After bees in behavioral field studies had learned to associate this anomaly with a sugar water reward, we subjected them to two experiments performed in random order. In both experiments, we presented bees with two identical sugar water rewards, one of which was randomly marked by a magnetic field anomaly. During the control experiment, the polarity of the magnetic field anomaly was maintained the same as it was during the training session. During the treatment experiment, it was reversed. We predicted that bees would not respond to the altered anomaly if they were sensitive to the polarity of the magnetic field. Our findings that bees continued to respond to the magnetic anomaly when its polarity was in its unaltered state, but did not respond to it when its polarity was reversed, support the hypothesis that honey bees possess a polarity-sensitive magnetoreceptor.