Flower To Bee: Honey, Choose Me!
Did you know that flowers and bees communicate using a secret code? So far, scientists had thought that a flower’s color, texture and scent were the only reasons bees were attracted to them.
We all know that flowers need bees for pollination, as much as bees need flowers for their nectar. But how does the bee know when a flower’s nectar has been consumed? According to a recent study, the flower sends an electric signal that is sensed by the bees!
A Fascinating Experiment
It is well known that flowers hold a small negative charge from their connection to the ground. Scientists have also known for years that the bees’ flapping wings creates a small positive electrical charge.
To test their theory, scientists at University of Bristol, U.K created a patch of false flowers, half of which held nectar. The other half held quinine which bees find bitter and disgusting. When the bees were let loose on this false patch, they were equally likely to choose bitter flowers and sweet flowers.
Next, researchers applied a small negative charge to the sweet flowers. And sure enough – the bees gravitated to the sweet flowers. When the charge was removed, guess what – they were back to their random foraging!
The Empty Signal
To understand how this signaling might work, tiny electrostatic detectors were attached to the inside of real petunia flowers. Scientists noticed that once the bees visited the flowers, the flower’s electric potential became slightly more positive, and stayed that way for 100 seconds or more. This served as a warning to the other bees that the flower had nothing to offer!
Can flowers trick bees?
Another species of orchid uses the drown-and-save technique, where the bee falls into a pool of water and just as it is struggling, it is deposited onto a bed of pollen! Yet other flowers deceive by appearance -- they may look like a different species that is favored by the bees.
Isn't it amazing how the animal kingdom never fails to surprise us!
Courtesy NPR, BBC