Juliette Poidatz

and 4 more

Automated 3D-image based tracking systems are new and promising devices to investigate the foraging behaviour of flying animals with great accuracy and precision. 3D analyses can provide accurate assessments of flight performance in regard to speed, curvature, and hovering. However, there have been few applications of this technology in ecology, particularly for insects. We used this technology to analyse the behavioural interactions between the Western honey bee Apis melifera and its invasive predator the Asian hornet, Vespa velutina nigrithorax. We investigated whether predation success could be affected by flight speed, flight curvature, and hovering of the Asian hornet and honey bees in front of one beehive. We recorded a total of 603,259 flight trajectories and 5,175 predator-prey flight interactions leading to 126 successful predation events, representing 2.4% predation success. Flight speeds of hornets in front of hive entrances were much lower than that of their bee prey; in contrast to hovering capacity, while curvature range overlapped between the two species. There were large differences in speed, curvature and hovering between the exit and entrance flights of honey bees. Interestingly, we found hornet density affected flight performance of both honey bees and hornets. Higher hornet density led to a decrease in the speed of honey bees leaving the hive, and an increase in the speed of honey bees entering the hive, together with more curved flight trajectories. These effects suggest some predator avoidance behaviour by the bees. Higher honey bee flight curvature resulted in lower hornet predation success. Results showed an increase of predation success when hornet number increased up to 8 individuals, above which predation success decreased, likely due to competition among predators. Although based on a single colony, this study reveals interesting outcomes derived from the use of automated 3D tracking to derive accurate measures of individual behaviour and behavioural interactions among flying species.