Airflow and optic flow mediates antennal positioning in flying honeybees

  1. Taruni Roy Khurana
  2. Sanjay P Sane  Is a corresponding author
  1. Tata Institute of Fundamental Research, India


To maintain their speeds during navigation, insects rely on feedback from their visual and mechanosensory modalities. Although optic flow plays an essential role in speed determination, it is less reliable under conditions of low light or sparse landmarks. Under such conditions, insects rely on feedback from antennal mechanosensors but it is not clear how these inputs combine to elicit flight-related antennal behaviours. We here show that antennal movements of the honeybee, Apis mellifera, are governed by combined visual and antennal mechanosensory inputs. Frontal airflow, as experienced during forward flight, causes antennae to actively move forward as a sigmoidal function of absolute airspeed values. However, corresponding front-to-back optic-flow causes antennae to move backward, as a linear function of relative optic flow, opposite the airspeed response. When combined, these inputs maintain antennal position in a state of dynamic equilibrium.

Article and author information

Author details

  1. Taruni Roy Khurana

    National Centre for Biological Sciences, Tata Institute of Fundamental Research, Bangalore, India
    Competing interests
    The authors declare that no competing interests exist.
  2. Sanjay P Sane

    National Centre for Biological Sciences, Tata Institute of Fundamental Research, Bangalore, India
    For correspondence
    Competing interests
    The authors declare that no competing interests exist.

Reviewing Editor

  1. Ronald L Calabrese, Emory University, United States


Animal experimentation: Study involved experiments on honeybees and were conducted according to ethical guidelines.

Version history

  1. Received: January 16, 2016
  2. Accepted: April 19, 2016
  3. Accepted Manuscript published: April 20, 2016 (version 1)
  4. Version of Record published: June 10, 2016 (version 2)


© 2016, Khurana & Sane

This article is distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License permitting unrestricted use and redistribution provided that the original author and source are credited.


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  1. Taruni Roy Khurana
  2. Sanjay P Sane
Airflow and optic flow mediates antennal positioning in flying honeybees
eLife 5:e14449.

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