Proboscis Extension Reflex in Apis mellifera [Honeybee] with Only One Antenna   

Edited by
Xi Feng
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Original research article

A brief version of this protocol appeared in:
Scientific Reports
Oct 2016


The proboscis extension reflex (PER) is a common classical conditioned reflex which is widely used in the neurology and ethology. In honeybees, PER experiments can train bees to associate an odor with a reward or punishment. Here we present a variation of the PER experiment in Apis mellifera that trains honeybees using only one antenna. This variation on the PER paradigm could assist research efforts in fields which study lateralization within the nervous system.

Keywords: PER, Honeybee, Neuroscience, Odor


Vertebrate brains can solve complex tasks with regional specialization (Kandel et al., 2000) and this may also be the case in invertebrates (Frasnelli et al., 2010). To date, experimental evidence for lateralization, a form of regional specialization, in honeybees has been documented for simple olfactory classical conditioning. For example, asymmetry in use of the antennae (Letzkus et al., 2006; Rogers and Vallortigara, 2008) with associated asymmetry of anatomy (i.e., sensilla number and electroantennographic responses of antennal neurons (Anfora et al., 2010; Frasnelli et al., 2010)). The honeybee Apis mellifera displays a clear laterality in responding to learned odors (Guo et al., 2016). By training honeybees on two different versions of the well-known proboscis extension reflex (PER) paradigm (Kuwabara et al., 1957; Bitterman et al., 1983), we demonstrated that bees respond to odors better when they are trained through their right antenna. To our knowledge, that was the first report of asymmetrical learning performance in an insect. In summary, our modified protocol can be used to further explore lateralization in invertebrates.

Copyright: © 2017 The Authors; exclusive licensee Bio-protocol LLC.
How to cite: Guo, Y., Wang, Z., Zeng, Z., Zhang, S. and Chen, R. (2017). Proboscis Extension Reflex in Apis mellifera [Honeybee] with Only One Antenna. Bio-protocol 7(23): e2624. DOI: 10.21769/BioProtoc.2624.

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