Faculty Advisor

Gegear, Robert J.


Mental flexibility is the brain’s ability to rapidly and effectively switch between tasks. The additional mental processing time required by task switching is known as a switch cost. This process is used by foraging bumble bees that are faced with various flower types and must decide when to switch between them. The purpose of this study was to determine if a bee’s age or foraging experience impacts its mental flexibility, altering its ability to forage proficiently. By using a novel behavioral assay to measure the bees’ foraging efficiency, we found that more experience led to decreased mental flexibility. This effect is independent of a bee’s age, which had no impact on mental flexibility. These results indicate that increased experience correlates with cognitive decline in bumble bees.


Worcester Polytechnic Institute

Date Accepted

April 2013


Biology and Biotechnology

Project Type

Major Qualifying Project



Advisor Department

Biology and Biotechnology

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