In this paper we present and discuss a number of experimental results collected from varied and complementary approaches, all aimed at a better understanding of how complex food odour mixtures are processed and discriminated in the bee's olfactory system, and used finally as a flower species-specific signal for foraging behaviour. Several levels have been considered, from developmental and behavioural to neural correlates, including theoretical modelling aspects. We show how the study of this problem, which is exceedingly difficult when considered at the neural level alone, is clarified from being placed in the context of natural environmental conditions, especially with respect to the chemical composition of the flower scent and the related conditioned behavioural responses. In such a framework, the antennal lobe neurones and glomeruli have been subject to intense scrutiny, in terms of morphology, connectivity and response profiles. The data collected so far underline the important role of the antennal lobe in odour decoding.
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