Sunday, 15 January 2017

Bees prefer warm violets in cool forests, scientists discover

Date: January 5, 2017
Source: Saint Louis University

Research by scientists at Saint Louis University's Bernhardt/Meier Laboratory engaged in a study of Missouri bees and wildflowers has been published in the online Journal of Pollination Ecology.

Peter Bernhardt, Ph.D., a professor of biology at SLU and research associate at the Missouri Botanical Garden and the Royal Botanic Gardens and Domain Trust in Sydney, New South Wales, has been studying reproductive patterns in wildflowers in six countries for over 40 years and, like most dedicated scientists, thrives on new discoveries such as how bees respond to the color of the flowers they pollinate.

"Remember how you were told that a dark coat keeps you a little warmer on a cold but sunny day," Bernhardt said. "Some plants blooming in chilly environments have dark purple or almost black patches on their flowers to keep cold-blooded insects toasty warm as they pollinate.

Bernhardt said three years of research at their lab, with field work at Missouri's Cuivre River State Park and the Shaw Nature Reserve (owned by the Missouri Botanical Garden) illustrate a new side to this colorful tale in the online journal.

The birds foot violet (Viola pedata) has two, common, color forms when it blooms during the cool, Missouri, April. The concolor form makes flowers with five light violet-mauve petals. The flower of a bicolor plant has three mauve petals plus two top petals that are a deep, dark, funereal purple.

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