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Effect of light intensity on flight control and temporal properties of photoreceptors in bumblebees.

  • Therese Reber
  • Antti Vähäkainu
  • Emily Baird
  • Matti Weckström
  • Eric Warrant
  • Marie Dacke
Publishing year: 2015
Language: English
Pages: 1339-1346
Publication/Series: Journal of Experimental Biology
Volume: 218
Issue: 9
Document type: Journal article
Publisher: The Company of Biologists Ltd

Abstract english

To control flight, insects rely on the pattern of visual motion generated on the retina as they move through the environment. When light levels fall, vision becomes less reliable and flight control thus becomes more challenging. Here, we investigated the effect of light intensity on flight control by filming the trajectories of free-flying bumblebees (Bombus terrestris, Linnaeus, 1758) in an experimental tunnel at different light levels. As light levels fell, flight speed decreased and the flight trajectories became more tortuous but the bees were still remarkably good at centring their flight about the tunnel's midline. To investigate if this robust flight performance can be explained by visual adaptations in the bumblebee retina, we also examined the response speed of the green sensitive photoreceptors at the same light intensities. We found that the response speed of the photoreceptors significantly decreased as light levels fell. This indicates that bumblebees have both behavioural (reduction in flight speed) and retinal (reduction in response speed of the photoreceptors) adaptations to allow them to fly in dim light. However, the more tortuous flight paths recorded in dim light suggest that these adaptations do not support flight with the same precision during the twilight hours of the day.


  • Zoology


  • ISSN: 1477-9145
Emily Baird
E-mail: emily [dot] baird [at] biol [dot] lu [dot] se


Functional zoology

+46 46 222 96 18

+46 72 700 55 55



Research group

Lund Vision Group


Doctoral students and postdocs

PhD Students, main supervisor

Pierre Tichit

PhD Students, assistant supervisor

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