Are Bees Nature’s Own Little Electrician?
Have you even wondered how bees know exactly where to go when collecting pollen? We see bees happily buzzing around the garden during the summer months, flying from flower to flower, and collecting pollen to make honey. But how do they know which flowers to fly to? They not only recognise the flowers scent and colour, but they also pick up on their electrical field.
All flowers produce an electric field, which is created by the imbalance of charge between the ground and the atmosphere. This charge differs for each species of plant, depending on how far they are from the ground and their shape. Flowers use these electric fields as a way to advertise themselves to pollinators, along with their scent and colours – but until very recently, we had no idea how bees can actually sense this electric field. However, researchers from the University of Bristol have discovered just that.
The researchers used a piece of equipment called a laser vibrometer to measure how the bee’s tiny hairs respond to the flowers electric field. When the bee flies within 10cm of the flower, their hairs respond to the flowers electric field much like how our hair responds to static electricity from a balloon. As the bee flies close enough to the flower, its hair bends towards it and directs the bee straight towards it. The bending of the bee’s hair cause neurons at the base of the hair to activate and allows the bee to sense the flower.
Bees are extraordinary insects, and now we have something else of interest to add to these amazing little creatures. Although they can’t rewire your house or fit a consumer unit, they can physically feel electricity, and we think that is pretty amazing! If you wanted to find out a little more information, you will find links to the websites used as research for this post. If you click here, you can also watch a video to see the bees’ hair reacting to the electric field.
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