Direction finding by hornets under gravitational and centrifugal forces

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Science  21 Nov 1975:
Vol. 190, Issue 4216, pp. 802-804
DOI: 10.1126/science.1198099


The effect of centrifugal and gravitational forces whose resultant ranged between 26 degrees and 45 degrees on comb construction by hornet workers was assessed experimentally. Comb construction by hornets exposed to centrifugation at 1 to 2 days of age differed from that of hornets similarly exposed at 3 to 7 days of age. Juvenile hornets built their cells in the direction of the resultant force, whereas adults resisted the centrifugal force and tried to build in the direction of the gravitational force. Juveniles started their comb from the side walls, whereas adults started from the roof, as did nonspinning, control hornets. The findings suggest that hornets rapidly learn the gravitational force during the first days of life, and that they are aided by geometric cues of the breeding box to build in the direction of the force to which they had become habituated.