Bees 'pick up electric signals'
Plants use electric fields to communicate with bees, scientists have
Bumblebees are able to find and decipher weak electric signals emitted by
flowers, according to a study published in the latest online edition of the
Tests revealed that bees can distinguish between different floral fields,
as if they were petal colours. The electric signals may also let the insects
know if another bee has recently visited a flower.
How bees detect the fields is unknown, but the researchers suspect the
electrostatic force might make their hair bristle. A similar hair-raising
effect is seen when placing one's head close to an old-style TV screen. Flowers
were already known to use bright colours, patterns and enticing scents to
attract pollinators. Electrical signals may provide a deeper level of
communication, the scientists believe.
Dr Heather Whitney, a member of the University of Bristol team, said: "This
novel communication channel reveals how flowers can potentially inform their
pollinators about the honest status of their precious nectar and pollen
Plants are known to emit weak negatively charged electric fields, and bees
acquire a positive charge of up to 200 volts as they fly through the air.
As a charged bee approaches a flower, the difference in electrical potential
is not enough to produce sparks, but can be felt by the
The researchers investigated the signals by placing electrodes in the stems
of petunias. They found that when a bee landed on a flower, the plant's
electrical potential changed and remained altered for several minutes. This
could be a way of letting a bee know it is landing on a flower that has already
been visited and lost its nectar, the scientists speculate.
Study leader Professor Daniel Robert said: "This novel communication channel
reveals how flowers can potentially inform their pollinators about the honest
status of their precious nectar and pollen reserves. 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
an unrewarding flower."
To their surprise, the scientists discovered that bumblebees can distinguish
between different floral electric fields. They were also quicker at learning
the difference between two flower colours when electrical signals were also
Prof Robert added: "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
|Honey bees may grasp quantum mechanics to do their waggle dance. According
to Barbara Shipman, mathematics professor at the University of Rochester
"I think the physics of the bees bodies, their physiology, must be
constructed such that theyre 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. " ( i.e. the
bees can perceive quarks ! Quote from a 1997 Discover Magazine article) Also
read: Shipman, B. (2007). The full Kostant-Toda lattice: Geometry of its
singularities and its connection to honeybees and new developments in physics.
In Workshop on the Iso Level Sets of Integrable Systems 2007. Keio University,
MATH COE, Japan: Integrative Mathematical Sciences. See this link for the