Background of the International Symposium in Honeybee Neuroscience, Berlin, June 10-13, 2010

“Honeybee Neuroscience – a New, Old Model System, Bridging Genomics, Physiology and Behavior. Where To in The Next 50 Years?”

36 years ago, 1973, Karl von Frisch received the Nobel Prize in Physiology and Medicine (together with Konrad Lorenz and Nicolaas Tinbergen) for his discovery of the dance language in honeybees. 22 years ago, Randolf Menzel & Alison Mercer edited “Neurobiology and Behavior of Honeybees” (Springer, 1987), a fundamental book for the study of invertebrate biology which covered most aspects of honeybee biology, focusing on behavioral and neurobiological approaches. Three years ago, the honeybee genome was published. Recently, new doppler-radar based approaches have allowed studying detailed flight tracks of honeybees, and directly test how dance-information is transformed into flight behavior. Clearly, honeybee research has made spectacular progresses in the last 50 years, and the honeybee has consolidated its status as a model system due to significant discoveries from many research groups around the world. Most importantly, the honeybee has a very rich behavioral repertoire, both at the level of the individual animal and as a social organism, and a readily accessible nervous system, a combination that explains its attractiveness as a model system for neuroscience and behavior. The recent expansion of genomic research opens many new doors to integrate these aspects.

We would like to capture this moment to discuss where to honeybee neuroscience is heading in the next 10, 20 and even 50 years. To this end, we have invited the leading representatives in honeybee research to a symposium, to be held in Berlin June 10-13, 2010. Most importantly, the symposium is planned as a discussion forum, with ample space for prospective views and commentaries. Therefore, all speakers are requested (and have agreed!) to deliver the core content of their talks in text form ahead of the symposium. This will allow for a much more intensive scientific interaction. Minutes of the discussion will be taken, and after the symposium the authors will have access to all talks and the minutes. We envisage that this process: writing, discussing at a high-level meeting, and then receiving the minutes of the discussion again will allow us to create a discourse that will shape neuroscience and behavior studies in the honeybee for many years to come. We are very happy to say that we received enthusiastic responses from the honeybee neuroscience community around the world, and we have confirmation of attendance from a very distinguished list of worldwide speakers, all being the best in their respective fields. We take this also as a confirmation for the interest that this new format for a scientific symposium elicits. The event includes a satellite symposium on insect neuroscience, including speakers reporting from moth, ant, fruit-flies and Aplysia, in order to broaden the discussions, and cross-fertilize research fields.