Natures wonders: Bumblebees sense eletric fields (Introduction)

by David Turell @, Saturday, January 09, 2016, 05:41 (1474 days ago) @ David Turell

They seem to look for charged flowers!

"As they zero in on their sugary reward, foraging bumblebees follow an invisible clue: electric fields. Although some animals, including sharks, are known to have an electric sense, this is the first time the ability has been documented in insects.

"Pollinating insects take in a large number of sensory cues, from colours and fragrances to petal textures and air humidity. Being able to judge which flowers will provide the most nectar, and which have already been plundered by other pollinators, helps them to use their energy more efficiently.

"It has long been known that bumblebees build up a positive electrical charge as they rapidly flap their wings; when they land on flowers, this charge helps pollen to stick to their hairs. Daniel Robert, a biologist at the University of Bristol, UK, knew that such electrical interactions would temporarily change the electrical status of the flowers — but he did not know whether bumblebees were picking up on this.


"But when the researchers turned off the electrical charge on the flowers and re-released the trained bees, the insects visited rewarding flowers only about half of the time, as they would have by random chance. That suggested that the bees were detecting the electric fields and using them to guide their activities, rather than relying on other clues such as fragrance. The team reports its results in this week's Science1.

“'We think bumblebees are using this ability to perceive electrical fields to determine if flowers were recently visited by other bumblebees and are therefore worth visiting,” says Robert."

Comment: If migrating birds and butterflies use magnetic fields, why not electric fields?

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