Foragers of the Japanese honeybee (Apis cerana japonica) were attracted by flowers of an oriental orchid (Cymbidium floribundum) and were observed to carry the pollinia on their scutella. After the removal of pollinia from the flowers, their labial color changed from white to reddish brown. Both artificial removal of pollinia and ethrel treatment of the flowers also induced this labial color change. Labia in color-changed flowers showed a decreased reflectance of wavelengths less than 670 nm compared to control intact flower. Both reflectance irradiance spectra and ultraviolet photographs showed that only the nectar guide in white (unchanged) flowers reflected ultraviolet light, and that this reflectance decreased with labial color change. Dual choice experiments showed that the honeybee foragers preferentially visited flowers having white labia rather than reddish brown. We suggest that Japanese honeybees discriminate between the floral phases of C. floribundum using color vision.
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