Tags: bees | flowers | electrical | fields

Bees, Flowers' Electrical Fields Have Constant Hairy Encounters

Image: Bees, Flowers' Electrical Fields Have Constant Hairy Encounters
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By    |   Wednesday, 01 Jun 2016 11:19 AM

Bees detect electrical fields created by flowers and use tiny hairs on their bodies to zoom in on the objects of their pollination. That's the buzz. 

And the use of what's called electroreception may be widespread among other insects, suggests research by England's University of Bristol and published on Monday in the international journal Proceedings of National Academy of Sciences.

Bees' hairs may act similar to acoustically sensitive spider hairs and mosquito antennae, the researchers said in a university news release

"We were excited to discover that bees' tiny hairs dance in response to electric fields, like when humans hold a balloon to their hair," said Gregory Sutton, a research fellow at the university's School of Biological Sciences.

"A lot of insects have similar body hairs, which leads to the possibility that many members of the insect world may be equally sensitive to small electric fields," Sutton said.

Researchers used nearly identical artificial flowers, filling half with sugar water and the other half with a bitter liquid, noted NPR. They added 30 volts of electricity to the flowers with sugar water.

The bees eventually learned to go to the flowers charged with 30 volts, Sutton said.

When researchers turned off the electricity, the bees could no longer tell the difference between the two groups of flowers, suggesting they depended on the electrical fields.

Sutton told NPR that researchers used a laser beam to measure small motions of the bees' hair to determine how the insects were identifying the electrical fields.

"Basically this just adds to the long list of incredible things that bees can do," Robert Gegear, who studies pollinating insects at Worcester Polytechnic Institute in Massachusetts, told NPR.

The university release said electroreception is common in aquatic mammals like sharks, which use jelly-filled receptors to detect fluctuations in electric fields to help them navigate and catch prey.

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Bees detect electrical fields created by flowers and use tiny hairs on their bodies to zoom in on the objects of their pollination. That's the buzz.
bees, flowers, electrical, fields
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2016-19-01
Wednesday, 01 Jun 2016 11:19 AM
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