Felicity Muth's research while affiliated with University of Texas at Austin and other places

Publications (27)

Article
Bees are vital pollinators of crops and wildflowers and as such, wild bee declines threaten food security and functioning ecosystems. One driver of bee declines is the use of systemic insecticides, such as commonly used neonicotinoids. However, rising pest resistance to neonicotinoids, and restrictions on their use in the EU, has increased the dema...
Article
Full-text available
Nectar chemistry can influence the behavior of pollinators in ways that affect pollen transfer, yet basic questions about how nectar chemical diversity impacts plant-pollinator relationships remain unexplored. For example, plants’ capacity to produce neurotransmitters and endocrine disruptors may offer a means to manipulate pollinator behavior. We...
Preprint
Octopamine has broad roles within invertebrate nervous systems as a neurohormone, neurotransmitter and neuromodulator. It orchestrates foraging behavior in many insect taxa via effects on feeding, gustatory responsiveness and appetitive learning. Knowledge of how this biogenic amine regulates bee physiology and behavior is based largely on study of...
Article
While classic models of animal decision-making assume that individuals assess the absolute value of options, decades of research have shown that rewards are often evaluated relative to recent experience, creating incentive contrast effects. Contrast effects are often assumed to be purely sensory, yet consumer and experimental psychology tell us tha...
Article
Full-text available
Neonicotinoid insecticides can have sub-lethal effects on bees which has led to calls from conservationists for a global ban. In contrast, agrochemical companies argue that neonicotinoids do not harm honeybees at field-realistic levels. However, the focus on honeybees neglects the potential impact on other bee species. We conducted a meta-analysis...
Article
Bumblebees are important pollinators of agricultural crops and wildflowers, but many species are in decline. Neonicotinoid insecticides are the most commonly used insecticide globally and can have negative sublethal effects on bumblebee colony growth and reproduction. Individual bumblebees can visit hundreds to thousands of flowers a day to forage...
Article
Full-text available
Animals develop food preferences based on taste, nutritional quality and to avoid environmental toxins. Yet, measuring preferences in an experimental setting can be challenging since ecologically realistic assays can be time consuming, while simplified assays may not capture natural sampling behavior. Field realism is a particular challenge when st...
Article
Species' cognitive traits are shaped by their ecology, and even within a species, cognition can reflect the behavioural requirements of individuals with different roles. Social insects have a number of discrete roles (castes) within a colony and thus offer a useful system to determine how ecological requirements shape cognition. Bumblebee queens ar...
Article
Females and males often face different sources of selection, resulting in dimorphism in morphological, physiological, and even cognitive traits. Sex differences are often studied in respect to spatial cognition, yet the different ecological roles of males and females might shape cognition in multiple ways. For example, in dietary generalist bumbleb...
Article
Systemic insecticides, such as neonicotinoids, are a major contributor towards beneficial insect declines. This has led to bans and restrictions on neonicotinoid use globally, most noticeably in the European Union, where four commonly used neonicotinoids (imidacloprid, thiamethoxam, clothianidin and thiacloprid) are banned from outside agricultural...
Article
Full-text available
Neonicotinoid pesticides can have a multitude of negative sublethal effects on bees. Understanding their impact on wild populations requires accurately estimating the dosages bees encounter under natural conditions. This is complicated by the possibility that bees might influence their own exposure: two recent studies found that bumblebees (Bombus...
Article
Neonicotinoid pesticides can impair bees’ ability to learn and remember information about flowers, critical for effective foraging. Although these effects on cognition may contribute to broader effects on health and performance, to date they have largely been assayed in simplified protocols that consider learning in a single sensory modality, usual...
Article
Plants often compete in a marketplace that involves the exchange of floral rewards for pollination service. This marketplace is frequently viewed as revolving around a single currency, typically nectar. While this focus has established pollinators such as bees as classic models in foraging ecology, in reality many plants provide both pollen and nec...
Article
Full-text available
Neonicotinoids are widely-used pesticides implicated in the decline of bees, known to have sub-lethal effects on bees’ foraging and colony performance. One proposed mechanism for these negative effects is impairment to bees’ ability to learn floral associations. However, the effects of neonicotinoids on learning performance have largely been addres...
Article
Learning associations between food-related stimuli and nutrients allows foragers to collect resources efficiently. In turn, the nutrients that foragers consume can themselves affect learning performance, through innate preferences for pre-ingestive stimuli, as well as post-ingestive reinforcement. Bees are insect models of learning and memory, yet...
Article
Full-text available
How do nectar-feeding animals choose among alternative flower-handling tactics? Such decisions have consequences not only for animal fitness (via food intake) but for plant fitness as well: many animals can choose to “rob” nectar through holes chewed in the base of a flower instead of “legitimately” collecting it through the flower’s opening, thus...
Article
Full-text available
Understanding how animals perceive, learn and remember stimuli is critical for understanding both how cognition is shaped by natural selection, and how ecological factors impact behaviour. However, the majority of studies on cognition involve captive animals in laboratory settings. While controlled settings are required to accurately measure aspect...
Article
Keywords: Bombus impatiens bumblebee learning memory multitasking nectar pollen pollination In their natural environments, most animals must learn about multiple kinds of rewards, both within and across contexts. Despite this, the majority of research on animal learning involves a single reward type. For example, bees are an important model system...
Article
Full-text available
Pollen plays a dual role as both a gametophyte and a nutritional reward for pollinators. Although pollen chemistry varies across plant species, its functional significance in pollination has remained obscure, in part because little is known about how floral visitors assess it. Bees rely on pollen for protein, but whether foragers evaluate its chemi...
Article
Ever since Karl von Frisch's Nobel Prize-winning work in the early 1900s, bees have served as an important model system for the study of learning, memory and foraging behaviour. Bees can learn about floral features including colour, scent, texture and electrostatic charge, and show surprisingly sophisticated forms of learning. However, nearly every...
Article
How foragers cope with complexity in both needs and resources is a major question in behavioral ecology. When faced with nutritionally diverse resources, or when foraging for offspring with divergent nutritional needs, animals must meet the challenge of how to structure their foraging bouts, including what resources to forage for and in what order...
Article
Full-text available
Bees are model organisms for the study of learning and memory, yet nearly all such research to date has used a single reward, nectar. Many bees collect both nectar (carbohydrates) and pollen (protein) on a single foraging bout, sometimes from different plant species. We tested whether individual bumblebees could learn colour associations with necta...
Article
Full-text available
Many animals learn skills that can take a long time to acquire. Such learned skills may have high payoffs eventually, but during the period of learning their net profitability is low. When there are other options available, it is not clear how animals decide to learn how to perform tasks that initially have low or no benefits. Bees in particular vi...
Article
Stress has complex effects on learning and memory, depending on both the type of stress and when the animal experiences it. Honeybees and bumblebees are agriculturally important pollinators for whom the effects of stress are extremely relevant. These pollinators are often transported long distances during which colonies experience severe physical d...
Conference Paper
Background/Question/Methods Many pollinator species show floral constancy, restricting foraging to one or a few flowering species, but tend to be nutritional generalists, collecting both pollen and nectar during a foraging bout. To better understand the interplay between floral reward composition and bee foraging behavior, we seperate and definie...

Citations

... The finding that bundling and segregation affect ant value perception adds this behavioural economic effect to several others which have also been shown to affect perceived value in insects, including decoy effects (Sasaki and Pratt, 2011;Shafir et al., 2002;Tan et al., 2015), invested effort increasing perceived value (Czaczkes et al., 2018a), relative value perception (Bitterman, 1976;Couvillon and Bitterman, 1984;Wendt et al., 2019), and labelling effects (Hemingway and Muth, 2022; was not certified by peer review) is the author/funder, who has granted bioRxiv a license to display the preprint in perpetuity. It is made ...
... Widespread pesticide usage is one of the multiple interacting factors that have been linked to decreases in bumblebee populations (Blacquière et al. 2012;Goulson et al. 2015; Baron et al. 2017). Although the extent to which pesticide exposure contributes to these declines is not fully understood, studies have found that exposure to insecticides can compromise bumblebees' learning and foraging capabilities, colony initiation and reproductive success, as well as their efficiency in pollinating crops (Godfray et al., 2014;Stanley et al., 2015;Siviter et al., 2021;Camp & Lehmann, 2021). Exposure to fungicides, a class of pesticides generally considered safer for bees, can also have detrimental effects on bumblebees by impairing colony performance and increasing their susceptibility to other pesticides and gut parasite infections (Belsky & Joshi, 2020). ...
... Food deprivation can also be caused by exposure to other stressors, such as pesticides that decrease foraging success (Muth & Leonard, 2019;Siviter et al., 2021). These factors, and the complex interactions between them, contribute to population declines because a reduced access to high-quality pollen negatively affects colony health and reproductive success (e.g., Kämper et al., 2016;Leza et al., 2018). ...
... Moving forward, researchers should explore sex-differences in participation in finer detail, such as at what stage of testing (e.g., initial stimulus presentation, reinforcement reversal, etc.) sex differences in participation appear. For social insects in particular, it would also be notable to explore whether participation varies by sex alone or also between inter-and intrasexual castes, as has been found with associative learning (Muth, 2021). As the field moves toward a more comprehensive understanding of the causes of intra-and interspecific variation in cognition, the relationship between ecology and participation will be important to address, so that our understanding of behavior remains impartial and the mechanisms underlying cognitive variance can be fully understood. ...
... Finally, it is of course possible that differences exist in wild-foraging bees that we did not detect here. While individuals do show clear preferences for solutions using our assay when solutions are readily distinguishable (confirmed with solutions of different sucrose concentration, A. S. Leonard 2013, unpublished data), there may be differences between how bees sample and consume sucrose when contained individually versus free-foraging on flowers [61]. ...
... There is still much unknown about what is required for cognitive traits to become sex-linked, and if a trait (like physical cognition) is more beneficial to one sex (male zebra finches) but is not somehow sex-linked then we would not expect sexes to differ in this trait despite differential benefits. Indeed other species with sex differences in ecology have not demonstrated hypothesized cognitive differences; Bumblebee (Bombus) males and females, for instance, did not differ in cognitive performance as predicted in a color associative learning task (Muth et al. 2021). ...
... Nevertheless, resistance to neonicotinoids was reported in different aphid species (Bass et al. 2015). Furthermore, the use of neonicotinoids was restricted in the European Union due to the lack of insect specificity, as well as the significant adverse impacts on beneficial insects (Siviter and Muth 2020). Thus, it is essential to introduce insecticides with a novel mode of action, and a safe environmental profile in A. craccivora management programs. ...
... Research should also be conducted to explore any combined effect of other pathogens and novel pesticides on pollinator fitness. B. terrestris, although less studied than A. mellifera, is still subject to more research than the vast array of wild bee species, and the effects of some pesticides vary between species of the same genus 73,74 . More research of this nature should be conducted on wild bees, as the results we obtained for B. terrestris may not be reflective of all bumblebees, not only because it is not a declining species, but also because results from pesticide effects on its fitness have differed from those on other species 9 . ...
... Given the ubiquity of multimodal signaling in plantpollinator interactions, and previous studies showing that bee response to nectar chemistry may depend on flower color (Muth et al. 2019), here we focus on the interaction of secondary metabolites and floral color, in our case humanperceived blue versus human-perceived white flowers. Given that Bombus impatiens typically show a preference for human-perceived blue over human-perceived white flowers (Simonds and Plowright 2004;Hudon and Plowright 2011), we expected bees to behave differently when foraging on these two flower colors, and studied how these differences interacted with nectar chemistry. ...
... Of course, real flowers have additional levels of complexity such as multimodal stimuli [58] and multiple rewards [59][60][61]. Future work might address how bees' relative value perception of flowers is affected by multiple rewards on different axes of reward quality [62]. Additionally, real flowers will have greater variability in reward quality than the artificial flowers used here, and this variability may differ across floral communities [44,63]. ...