Social bees mark dangerous flowers with chemical signals

Mar 14, 2013
Social bees mark dangerous flowers with chemical signals
This is a simulation, during the experiment, of a predator trapping the bee with forceps. Credit: Ana L. Llandres

Scientists already knew that some social bee species warn their conspecifics when detecting the presence of a predator near their hive, which in turn causes an attack response to the possible predator. Researchers at the University of Tours (France) in collaboration with the Experimental Station of Arid Zones of Almeria (Spain) have now demonstrated that they also use chemical signals to mark those flowers where they have previously been attacked.

Researchers at the University of Tours (France) and the Experimental Station of Arid Zones of Almeria (EEZA-CSIC) conducted an experiment to study whether bees are capable of using evasive to mark those flowers where they have previously been attacked. For this purpose, they simulated a attack and observed whether the bees advised the rest of their conspecifics of the danger of gathering at a certain plant.

"Evasive alarm pheromones provoke an escape response in insects that visit a particular flower and until now, we were not sure of the role that these pheromones played in social bees. Our results indicate that, unlike solitary bees, social bees use this type of alert system on flowers to warn their conspecifics of the presence of a nearby predator," as explained to SINC by Ana L. Llandres from the University of Tours and lead author of the study published in the 'Animal Behaviour' journal.

In order to determine whether social and solitary bees responded to these olfactory alarm signals, an experiment was performed using individuals from both types and from different countries: Australia, China, Spain and Singapore.

In some plants the predator attack was simulated by trapping the bees with pincers whereas in other cases control plants were used in which no attack took place.

" responded similarly in the case of flowers that had been attacked by control predators and control flowers. However, social bees responded very differently," explains L. Llandres. "Despite approaching both types of flower, the probability of landing on control flowers was much higher." The scientists also detected that the probability of social bees rejecting flowers was much greater if a predator attack had been previously simulated.

This study supports the idea that the sociability of bees is linked to the evolution of warning signals.

Explore further: Science casts light on sex in the orchard

More information: Ana L. Llandres, Francisco G. Gonzálvez, Miguel A. Rodríguez-Gironés. "Social but not solitary bees reject dangerous flowers where a conspecific has recently been attacked", Animal Behaviour 85: 97- 102, 2013.

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

The cost of long tongues

Apr 16, 2007

Orchid bees use their extraordinarily long tongues to drink nectar from the deep, tropical flowers only they can access. Researchers have long suspected that this kind of exclusive access came with a mechanical ...

Making a bee-line for the best rewards

Aug 17, 2011

Bumblebees use complex problem solving skills to minimise the energy they use when flying to collect food, according to new research from Queen Mary, University of London.

Recommended for you

Science casts light on sex in the orchard

33 minutes ago

Persimmons are among the small club of plants with separate sexes—individual trees are either male or female. Now scientists at the University of California, Davis, and Kyoto University in Japan have discovered ...

Four new dragon millipedes found in China

2 hours ago

A team of speleobiologists from the South China Agriculture University and the Russian Academy of Sciences have described four new species of the dragon millipedes from southern China, two of which seem to ...

Scientist creates automatic birdsong recognition app

5 hours ago

Dr Dan Stowell, an EPSRC Research Fellow in QMUL's School of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science, has used a grant from Queen Mary Innovation to develop a prototype for an app that turns his research ...

New research reveals fish are smarter than we thought

6 hours ago

(Phys.org) —A new study from researchers in our Department of Psychology with colleagues at Queen Mary University of London has reported the first evidence that fish are able to process multiple objects ...

User comments : 0

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.