Minimum viewing angle for visually guided ground speed control in bumblebees.

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


To control flight, flying insects extract information from the pattern of visual motion generated during flight, known as optic flow. To regulate their ground speed, insects such as honeybees and Drosophila hold the rate of optic flow in the axial direction (front-to-back) constant. A consequence of this strategy is that its performance varies with the minimum viewing angle (the deviation from the frontal direction of the longitudinal axis of the insect) at which changes in axial optic flow are detected. The greater this angle, the later changes in the rate of optic flow, caused by changes in the density of the environment, will be detected. The aim of the present study is to examine the mechanisms of ground speed control in bumblebees and to identify the extent of the visual range over which optic flow for ground speed control is measured. Bumblebees were trained to fly through an experimental tunnel consisting of parallel vertical walls. Flights were recorded when (1) the distance between the tunnel walls was either 15 or 30 cm, (2) the visual texture on the tunnel walls provided either strong or weak optic flow cues and (3) the distance between the walls changed abruptly halfway along the tunnel's length. The results reveal that bumblebees regulate ground speed using optic flow cues and that changes in the rate of optic flow are detected at a minimum viewing angle of 23-30 deg., with a visual field that extends to approximately 155 deg. By measuring optic flow over a visual field that has a low minimum viewing angle, bumblebees are able to detect and respond to changes in the proximity of the environment well before they are encountered.


Research areas and keywords

Subject classification (UKÄ) – MANDATORY

  • Zoology


  • bumblebee, flight control, flight speed, ground speed, vision.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1625-1632
JournalJournal of Experimental Biology
Issue number10
Publication statusPublished - 2010
Publication categoryResearch