Bees and flowers communicate using electrical fields, researchers discover

Feb 21, 2013
bee
Photo: Annemarie Mountz

Flowers' methods of communicating are at least as sophisticated as any devised by an advertising agency, according to a new study, published today in Science Express by researchers from the University of Bristol. The research shows for the first time that pollinators such as bumblebees are able to find and distinguish electric signals given out by flowers. However, for any advert to be successful, it has to reach, and be perceived by, its target audience.

Flowers often produce bright colours, patterns and enticing fragrance to attract their pollinators. Researchers at Bristol's School of Biological Sciences, led by Professor Daniel Robert, found that flowers also have their equivalent of a neon sign – patterns of electrical signals that can communicate information to the insect pollinator. These can work in concert with the flower's other attractive signals and enhance flower power, or floral advertising power.

Plants are usually charged negatively and emit weak electric fields. On their side, bees acquire a positive charge, up to 200 Volts, as they fly through the air. No spark is produced as a charged bee approaches a charged flower, but certainly a small electric force builds up that can potentially convey information. Placing in the stems of Petunias, the researchers showed that when a bee lands, the flower's potential changes and remains so for several minutes. Could this be a way by which flowers tell bees another bee has recently been visiting? To their surprise, the researchers discovered that can detect and distinguish between different floral electric fields. Also, when bees are given a learning test, they are faster at learning the difference between two colours when are also available. How then do bees detect electric fields? This is not yet known, although the researchers speculate that hairy bumblebees bristle up under the , just like one's hair in front of an old television screen.

Bumblebees and flowers have an electric relationship

The discovery of such electric detection has opened up a whole new understanding of insect perception and flower communication. Dr. Heather Whitney, a co-author of the study commented: "This novel communication channel reveals how flowers can potentially inform their pollinators about the honest status of their precious nectar and pollen reserves". Professor Robert said: "the last thing a flower wants is to attract a bee and then fail to provide nectar; a lesson in honest advertising since bees are good learners and would soon lose interest in such unrewarding flower".

"The co-evolution between flowers and bees has a long and beneficial history, so perhaps it's not entirely surprising that we are still discovering today how remarkably sophisticated their communication is", added Robert.

Explore further: Great apes face extinction: conservationist Jane Goodall

More information: 'Detection and learning of floral electric fields by bumblebees' by Dominic Clarke, Heather Whitney, Gregory Sutton and Daniel Robert in Science Express.

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cantdrive85
1.4 / 5 (10) Feb 21, 2013
This can be extrapolated to all living things and beyond, life along with just about everything else in the Universe is driven and controlled by the electrical properties of the constituent particles.
Anda
5 / 5 (4) Feb 21, 2013
This can be extrapolated

Because you say so?
cantdrive85
1.5 / 5 (8) Feb 21, 2013
Why should bees and flowers be so special?
Why do these starlings not collide in the air?
http://www.youtub...KfY5aHmY

How do these schools of fish swim in a tight ball without collisions? Mind you, detailed studies have confirmed that the fish are not clumsily bouncing off of each other in that ball, it is a quite exquisite dance en masse.
http://www.youtub...HEhziUxU

How does your dog know when you're coming home, almost immediately as you make the decision to do so? Or, how many times have you called someone and they said, "I was just gonna call you." or "I was just thinking of you."

http://www.youtub...8GUtXpXY

There should be no reason to keep such a narrow view that this is confined to these two particular living things, there are many examples of this type of phenomenon (or unexplained) if we can only open our eyes and minds to it.
vacuum-mechanics
1 / 5 (8) Feb 21, 2013
Plants are usually charged negatively and emit weak electric fields. On their side, bees acquire a positive charge, up to 200 Volts, as they fly through the air. No spark is produced as a charged bee approaches a charged flower, but certainly a small electric force builds up that can potentially convey information….

This is interesting; unfortunately nowadays we still could not understand what the 'charge' is, how it creates electric field or why negative charges repel each other while attract a positive one? Maybe understanding these (as below) could help to explain the matter.
http://www.vacuum...20〈=en
aroc91
5 / 5 (2) Feb 21, 2013
How does your dog know when you're coming home, almost immediately as you make the decision to do so? Or, how many times have you called someone and they said, "I was just gonna call you." or "I was just thinking of you."


The electric universe can explain precognition? This is news to me.
kevin_hingwanyu
1 / 5 (2) Feb 21, 2013
Know these first time.
Does their (static electric charges) repel each other when two bees fly closely?

To their surprise, the researchers discovered that bumblebees can detect and distinguish between different floral electric fields

This may be helpful when bees search new flower source (from a long distance).

Professor Robert said: "the last thing a flower wants is to attract a bee and then fail to provide nectar; a lesson in honest advertising since bees are good learners and would soon lose interest in such unrewarding flower"

Nature is amazing.


How does your dog know when you're coming home,

This 'speculation'(?) can be verified by view-cam and synchronized timers when one comes home at varied time/day/interval. For example, screen off other causes such as low frequency vibration or infra-red radiation, and even chemical particles in air . . . etc.

Steven_Anderson
1 / 5 (4) Feb 21, 2013
I read somewhere that bees dances give directions when looked at in 4 dimensional geometry. Perhaps that has something to do with this? Wish I had a link but I don't!
NathanFinn
1 / 5 (6) Feb 21, 2013
Anyone interested should watch "Resonance: Beings of Frequency" on youtube. It makes a very solid connection between bee die-offs and electromagnetic radiation.
Mandan
4 / 5 (4) Feb 21, 2013
Why should bees and flowers be so special?
Why do these starlings not collide in the air?
http://www.youtub...KfY5aHmY



There have been plenty of articles here on physorg about how simple algorithmic choices based on what a flock or school member's nearest neighbors do that effects the kind of movements you describe. I'd be happy to dig out the links I've saved and post them here.

As far as use/detection of electromagnetic fields, this behavior can be traced back to bacteria at least: http://phys.org/n...html#jCp

Magnetic fields helps birds and fish migrate. Sharks detect the electrical signals of distressed muscles-- and ppms of blood in ocean water. The natural radiation spectrum is large and the sensory apparatuses that life forms have evolved to detect it are immensely varied.
PhyOrgSux
1 / 5 (5) Feb 22, 2013
I read somewhere that bees dances give directions when looked at in 4 dimensional geometry.


Well since you mentioned I had to look this up and a web search brought up an article titled "Quantum Honeybees" from November 1997 issue of Discover. The article describes the research of Barbara Shipman (a mathematician at the University of Rochester) and the link she found between 6-dimensional flag manifolds and the dance of honeybees.

Quote from the article:
She found a group of objects in the flag manifold that, when projected onto a two-dimensional hexagon, formed curves that reminded her of the bee's recruitment dance. The more she explored the flag manifold, the more curves she found that precisely matched the ones in the recruitment dance.[...]Delving more deeply into the flag manifold, Shipman dredged up a variable, which she called alpha, that allowed her to reproduce the entire bee dance in all its parts and variations.
PhyOrgSux
1 / 5 (5) Feb 22, 2013
By the way the "Quantum Honeybees" article quotes to Shipman saying that she thinks
"the physics of the bees' bodies, their physiology, must be constructed such that they're sensitive to quantum fields--that is, the bee perceives these fields through quantum mechanical interactions between the fields and the atoms in the membranes of certain cells."


The article can be found at:
http://discoverma...ees1263/
PhyOrgSux
1 / 5 (6) Feb 22, 2013
Thank you "lite", and just FYI you are a moron. Although I am not sure if you are intellectually capable of grasping this message.
Sean_W
1 / 5 (4) Feb 22, 2013
How can we tell if the flowers are actively retaining the neutral state rather than it just being the bees which detect it like a fresh footprint of the last bee. Maybe it just takes some time for the usual negative charge to build back up.
kevin_hingwanyu
1 / 5 (4) Feb 22, 2013
Flying bees carry -ve electrical charge. TV says that the structure of bee is not engineered for aerodynamic (don't ask me explain whats aerodynamically not possible). Heresay bees can fly is not possible and a mystery. Besides this, flying bumblebees carrying electrical charge may be another reason y their flying are hard to manage. Flowers attract bees literally. Is the electric attraction also helpful for bees to seek remote flowers? Betw' bees and different flowers, at vary status, their communication with electric field the complexity is not less than color,shape,pattern n fragrances.
At this moment I don't know how to say this - I think I have found a very important answer in nature, bees carry ve electrical charge while flowers are slightly -ve so the pollen are electrostatically -ve too. Electrical charges of bees and pollen are opposite this'll enhance the effect for bees to collect and attract pollen. And it also tells y much smaller pollen is favored for better pollenation.
kevin_hingwanyu
3 / 5 (4) Feb 22, 2013
(reedit these, internet browser has problem to input the characters)

Bees carry positively electrical charge while flowers are slightly negative so the pollen are electrostatically negative too. Bees and pollen carrying opposite electrical charges this will enhance the effect for bees to collect and attract pollen. And it also tells why much smaller pollen are favored for better pollenation.
Tausch
1 / 5 (4) Mar 01, 2013
Thank you "lite", and just FYI you are a moron. Although I am not sure if you are intellectually capable of grasping this message.

-PSgo

Simply plurge 'lite' from all your ratings. Then take the average.
The assumption is 'lite' is a ratings bot that automatically assigns '1's to 'blacklisted' commentators.
I stopped 'cleansing' my ratings of 'lite' once I realized my real average never fell below four. With 'lite' and low ratings you are always underestimated from others who succumb to the biases associated with ratings. All here know eventually that 'lite' ratings are meaningless.
Tausch
1 / 5 (4) Mar 02, 2013
The case in point can be seen in the above ratings.
Tausch
1 / 5 (4) Mar 02, 2013
Make the case here too, lite. lol
Tausch
1 / 5 (4) Mar 02, 2013
Auf Dich ist verlass. (You can be counted on)
Auf Dich. (Salute - pronounced in Italian)

Alle guten Dinge sind drei. (All good things come in three.)

One more time. (Nochmal)
Fine (Fine)
lol
jerseysquirrel
1 / 5 (3) Mar 27, 2013
Not surprising.
Quite a few years ago for somebody; somewhere; I was performing magnetometer detection experiments at standoff distances to detect hidden weapons under clothing in an open field mid day summer. In my closed hand by my right side was a 1 tesla magnet use to calibrate the standoff detection thresholds of our equipment. I watched a huge black and yellow bumble bee fly (if one could call it that) by me - then do a quick about face maybe 3 feet away. It flew directly at my hand and bounced directly off the hand holding the magnet. The bumble bee bounced off my closed hand more than a half dozen times each time returning to bounce before I moved to another position and it flew away. I will never forget that experience. We exploited that effect for other stuff.