TLDR: Two incredible things about bees and flowers

First: Bees can sense which flowers are “open for business” based on their electric fields. Although animals have been known to be able to detect electric fields, this is a first for an insect.

The way this works is that when a bee flies through it bumps into charged dust particles in the air, which cause it to be stripped of electrons thus gaining positive charge. Flowers on the other hand have negative charge.

This charge difference, however small, not only makes pollens jump from the flower to the bee, but it also helps the bee figure out which flower it should visit. The higher the voltage difference between the flower and the bee, the more the chances that the bee will find nectar in the flower

Second: Flowers attract bees by giving them a dose of caffeine.

Just like in humans, caffeine stimulates the bees. But what’s more is that researchers found caffeine also helps bees long-term memory retention. Thus the nectar of flowers that is laced with caffeine is remembered better by the bee.

It’s a win-win for both. Bees get more nectar and the flower gets to spread more of its pollens.

References:
Bees + electric field: Clarke et al. Science (2013)http://dx.doi.org/10.1126/science.1230883
Bees + caffeine: Wright et al. Science (2013)http://dx.doi.org/10.1126/science.1228806

Further reading:
Ed Yong in Not Exactly Rocket Science
Kate Shaw in Ars Technica

Image credit: Ars Technica

Advertisements

Leave a comment

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s