This bee is licking sugar from a q-tip as part of a “proboscis extension reflex” assay. This experiment, at a lab in Penn State University, is used to test the memory and learning ability of bees. Researchers expose the restrained bee to a smell and then offer it a sugar reward. Then after a pause, they expose the bee to the same smell and see if it sticks out its tongue (also called proboscis) in anticipation of the reward. If it does, then you know is has learned to associate the smell with food.
Researchers have used this test to show that very small amounts of pesticides and even “inactive" agricultural spray additives are harming bees’ ability to remember where their food is.
This bee was photographed for a story on honeybees in the May issue of National Geographic.
- Anand Varma (@anandavarma), National Geographic photographer
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