Bumblebees measure optic flow for position and speed control flexibly within the frontal visual field.

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


When flying through narrow spaces, insects control their position by balancing the magnitude of apparent image motion (optic flow) experienced in each eye and their speed by holding this value about a desired set-point. Previously, it has been shown that when bumblebees encounter sudden changes in the proximity to nearby surfaces - as indicated by a change in the magnitude of optic flow on each side of the visual field - they adjust their flight speed well before the change, suggesting that they measure optic flow for speed control at low visual angles in the frontal visual field. Here, we investigate the effect that sudden changes in the magnitude of translational optic flow have on both position and speed control in bumblebees if these changes are asymmetrical, that is, if they occur only on one side of the visual field. Our results reveal that the visual region over which bumblebees respond to optic flow cues for flight control is not dictated by a set viewing angle. Instead, they appear to use the maximum magnitude of translational optic flow experienced in the frontal visual field. This strategy ensures that bumblebees use the translational optic flow generated by the nearest obstacles - that is, those with which they have the highest risk of colliding - to control flight.


Research areas and keywords

Subject classification (UKÄ) – MANDATORY

  • Zoology
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1051-1059
JournalJournal of Experimental Biology
Issue number7
Publication statusPublished - 2015
Publication categoryResearch