Bees Can Sense Flowers Using Electric Fields

Bees Can Sense Flowers Using Electric Fields

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Bees can combine electric charges and visual signals to find which flowers they like.

Researchers at the University of Bristol have found that bees can sense a flower's electric field, which allows them to better choose between flowers they like and flowers they don't like. The researchers found that electrical signalling was a "rapid and dynamic" way for plants and pollinators to communicate. While flying, the bees gather a positive charge, and flowers are negatively charged. The difference in electrostatic forces allows the bee to return to flowers it liked, while cuing the pollen on the flower to jump to the bee. Professor Daniel Robert, one of the study's authors, told the BBC that "This is a new way to we can look at the interactions between bees and flowers. This doesn't throw away any of the previous work on cues that flowers are using, it adds another layer on top of that."

No previous study has investigated the role that electrostatic forces might play in the pollination process. "We looked at [existing] literature and realised that the bees were being positively charged when they fly around, and that flowers have a negative potential," said Robert. "There's always this electrical bias around. As a sensory biologist, suddenly I thought: can the bees sense that?" During the study, Bumblebees were allowed 50 visits to fake flowers the authors designed. Flowers in the arena with a positive charge were filled with sweet liquid, while negatively charged flowers were filled with bitter liquid. Over the course of their visits, bees developed a preference for the sweet liquid flowers with positive charges. During the last ten visits, the electric fields were turned off, and the bees went back to selecting flowers at random. "We know they can detect these electrostatic fields," said Robert. "This is the tip of the iceberg, there's so much more that we haven't seen yet."

The study was published in the online journal Science Express.

Source: BBC
Image: Wikimedia Commons

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bees and electricity? oh shit...

Interesting read. I always love these random bits of science on the escapist.

Well it makes sense that they pick up electrostatic fields. They wear sweaters all the time.

So...flowers are negatively charged?

And, it's possible to sense electric fields through the atmosphere?

Yeah, given that the only creatures hitherto known to be able to do that are marine animals (or the echidna, which evolved from one), I don't buy that.

I wonder if this is related to the issue over the fact that cell phone usage was causing bees to not pollinate flowers in some capacity.

http://articles.cnn.com/2010-06-30/world/bee.decline.mobile.phones_1_bee-populations-cell-phone-radiation-ofcom?_s=PM:WORLD

Then why the hell do bees constantly buzz my colored clothing? Hmm? Tell me! They're not flowers but bees only fly in close when I'm wearing my Hawaiian shirts.

I friggin' hate bees!

I knew that since I tried running 10.000V through my flowerbed!

The bees loved it but it cost me two gardeners...

Quaxar:
I knew that since I tried running 10.000V through my flowerbed!

The bees loved it but it cost me two gardeners...

That reminds me of the story of a man who electrocuted his own pond to get the fish in it, then attempted to gather said fish without removing the electrical cable...

OT: That might explain why cell phones affect bees and pollenation.

*looks at above posts*

Son of a ninja...

Well you learn something new everyday.... My brother is terrified of bees, perhaps I could use electricity to attract them to him?

rhizhim:
bees and electricity? oh shit...

We ar'n't all bad.

Jamieson 90:
Well you learn something new everyday.... My brother is terrified of bees, perhaps I could use electricity to attract them to him?

Why don't humans love me? I make honey!

Quaxar:
I knew that since I tried running 10.000V through my flowerbed!

The bees loved it but it cost me two gardeners...

We are very grateful

DVS BSTrD:
Well it makes sense that they pick up electrostatic fields. They wear sweaters all the time.

I have a tat as well

Pebkio:
Then why the hell do bees constantly buzz my colored clothing? Hmm? Tell me! They're not flowers but bees only fly in close when I'm wearing my Hawaiian shirts.

I friggin' hate bees!

Hey man! it's your fault. Do you see what you wear?

Hehehe, I'm sorry I didn't get far through the article, this is all I could think about. XD
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Bees are already pretty fascinating, yet they keep getting more so and more so.

This thread needs more bees
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So why does this article have a picture of a Bombus terrestris and not a Apis mellifera?

Pebkio:
Then why the hell do bees constantly buzz my colored clothing? Hmm? Tell me! They're not flowers but bees only fly in close when I'm wearing my Hawaiian shirts.

I friggin' hate bees!

Maybe you're negativelly charged?
You know, they are positive so they're drawne towards negative... like magnets...
At least you sound negative towards bees!!

Interesting read this, escapist always comes around with some random science stuff, always fun to read :P

What does the electric field say about its flower level?

thaluikhain:
So...flowers are negatively charged?

And, it's possible to sense electric fields through the atmosphere?

Yeah, given that the only creatures hitherto known to be able to do that are marine animals (or the echidna, which evolved from one), I don't buy that.

Actually, there's a lot we still don't understand about sensory awareness

Example: there has been some fascinating research on cows & their attraction to magnetism.
Why do herds of cows face toward magnetic fields? Scientists have no clue, but they've been observed doing it. Tests reproduce the results, & the conclusion is pretty much "Yeah, sooo... that's a thing that happens"
Go figure

What, no Nicholas Cage "Oh god the bees not the beeeeeeees!!!!" yet?

Symbio Joe:
So why does this article have a picture of a Bombus terrestris and not a Apis mellifera?

Because they did the study with bumble bees not the western honey bee.
As someone who keeps bees as a hobby, this is pretty interesting.

Mad Artillery:
Interesting read. I always love these random bits of science on the escapist.

agreed.

I shall file this in the fucking cool but incredible useless for everyday use information portion of my brain.

When you transfer charge with an object you usually feel a shock. Its easier to like [no shock + sweet] vs [get shock + bitter]. If the bees had preferred bitter liquid over sweet liquid based on charge that would have been more conclusive.

Pebkio:
Then why the hell do bees constantly buzz my colored clothing? Hmm? Tell me! They're not flowers but bees only fly in close when I'm wearing my Hawaiian shirts.

I friggin' hate bees!

They're picking up on your negativity!

Amazing how much we're learning about things we've taken for granted for centuries.

Thought so. And it should be no wonder that artificial electromagnetic fields interfere with bees' behaviour. Clearly there needs to be some sort of regulation to reduce the amount of interference in rural areas.

Hug a bumblebee today!

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MammothBlade:
Hug a bumblebee today!

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He doesn't really look all that hugable, frankly...

OT: This is actually kinda freaky. Between this discovery and what was talked about in this article, I'm beginning to wonder if a theory I made in another message board about how the psionic ability of Telepathy could be likened to radio communication is fairly close to the truth. Now we just need to figure out a rig that will move objects around using magnetism by hooking a certain device up to our minds, and we'll prove that Telekinesis is possible.

I wouldn't go too far though. I actually did figure out a way Pyrokinesis was possible...

 

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