Monday, 25 February 2013

Bumblebees sense flowers' electric fields


By Ben Aviss, Reporter, BBC Nature

Bumblebees (Bombus terrestris) can detect flowers' electric fields, scientists have discovered.

Results indicate floral electric fields improve the bees' ability to discriminate between different flowers.

When used with visual signals, electrical cues can enhance the bee's memory of floral rewards.

Researchers suggest this method of signalling provides rapid and dynamic communication between plants and pollinators.

The findings are published in the online journal Science Express.

Flowering plants reward pollinators with nectar and pollen in return for their assistance in the flowers' sexual reproduction.

Flowers attract pollinators using cues such as bright colours, patterns and enticing fragrances but this study suggests the importance of electrostatic information as an additional cue for the first time.

"Of course it has existed for a long time but this is a new way we can look at the interactions between bees and flowers," said Prof Daniel Robert of the University of Bristol.


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