Visual gaze control during peering flight manoeuvres in honeybees

Norbert Boeddeker*, Jan M. Hemmi

*Corresponding author for this work

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

    55 Citations (Scopus)


    As animals travel through the environment, powerful reflexes help stabilize their gaze by actively maintaining head and eyes in a level orientation. Gaze stabilization reduces motion blur and prevents image rotations. It also assists in depth perception based on translational optic flow. Here we describe side-to-side flight manoeuvres in honeybees and investigate how the bees' gaze is stabilized against rotations during these movements. We used high-speed video equipment to record flight paths and head movements in honeybees visiting a feeder. We show that during their approach, bees generate lateral movements with a median amplitude of about 20 mm. These movements occur with a frequency of up to 7 Hz and are generated by periodic roll movements of the thorax with amplitudes of up to ±60°. During such thorax roll oscillations, the head is held close to horizontal, thereby minimizing rotational optic flow. By having bees fly through an oscillating, patterned drum, we show that head stabilization is based mainly on visual motion cues. Bees exposed to a continuously rotating drum, however, hold their head fixed at an oblique angle. This result shows that although gaze stabilization is driven by visual motion cues, it is limited by other mechanisms, such as the dorsal light response or gravity reception.

    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)1209-1217
    Number of pages9
    JournalProceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences
    Issue number1685
    Publication statusPublished - 22 Apr 2010


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