When approaching a landing surface, many flying animals use visual feedback to control their landing. Here, we studied how foraging bumblebees (Bombus terrestris) use radial optic expansion cues to control in-flight decelerations during landing. By analyzing the flight dynamics of 4,672 landing maneuvers, we showed that landing bumblebees exhibit a series of deceleration bouts, unlike landing honeybees that continuously decelerate. During each bout, the bumblebee keeps its relative rate of optical expansion constant, and from one bout to the next, the bumblebee tends to shift to a higher, constant relative rate of expansion. This modular landing strategy is relatively fast compared to the strategy described for honeybees and results in approach dynamics that is strikingly similar to that of pigeons and hummingbirds. The here discovered modular landing strategy of bumblebees helps explaining why these important pollinators in nature and horticulture can forage effectively in challenging conditions; moreover, it has potential for bio-inspired landing strategies in flying robots.
- Biological Sciences
- Mathematical Biosciences