15. General conclusions

Honey bees display a unique behavioural repertoire both under controlled laboratory conditions (see sections 38) and under free-flying conditions (see sections 914). Behaviours which can be quantified reliably under controlled laboratory conditions include sensory responsiveness to gustatory, visual and olfactory stimuli, appetitive and aversive learning performance, locomotion and flight performance of individual bees. The availability of diverse systems for videotaping behaviour enables us to perform long-term studies on honey bee behaviour inside the hive on issues such as division of labour and dance communication. These observation studies are particularly useful for analysing the influence of stressors such as pesticides or diseases on individual honey bee behaviour and on the complex system of division of labour. A range of modern technical devices and a long history of behavioural studies allow us today to investigate with high precision complex behaviours in the field. Honey bee navigation, flight performance and mating behaviour are just some examples. Observing the appetitive and aversive learning performance of free-flying honey bees can give us valuable information on how stress or other parameters affect cognitive abilities of foragers, thereby influencing the success of the entire colony.

Naturally, the number of available protocols for honey bee behaviour is much larger than what can be covered in this chapter. We have therefore selected a range of assays which 1) are well established in honey bee research laboratories world-wide, 2) have been used successfully in the past, 3) are comparatively simple to perform, 4) yield reliable results and 5) cover a wide range of exciting behaviours. The introduced methods and techniques are thus intended to serve as standard protocols for honey bee researcher and bee keepers.