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Journal Article

Color constancy in the honey bee


Reichardt,  W
Former Department Information Processing in Insects, Max Planck Institute for Biological Cybernetics, Max Planck Society;

Wehrhahn,  C
Department Physiology of Cognitive Processes, Max Planck Institute for Biological Cybernetics, Max Planck Society;

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Reichardt, W., Päsler, M., & Wehrhahn, C. (1988). Color constancy in the honey bee. Journal of Neuroscience, 8(1), 156-159. Retrieved from

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A multicolored display was illuminated by 3 bands of wavelengths corresponding to the maxima of the spectral sensitivities of the 3 types of photoreceptors found in the bee retina. The intensity of each band could be varied individually. The light fluxes emitted by the colored areas of the multicolored display were determined quantitatively. Free-flying honeybees were trained with sugar solution to choose one of the colored areas. The illumination was then changed in such a way that the light fluxes formerly emitted by the training area were now measured on another area. When the trained bees were tested under those conditions, they still chose the training area. The relative positions of the colored areas were changed in order to exclude learning of position. It is concluded that color vision in bees is, in a certain range, independent of the spectral content of the illumination. Model calculations show that the behavior observed in bees is consistent with the retinex theory (Land, 1977), i.e., an algorithm using long-range interactions is required to explain color constancy.