Saturday, February 23, 2013

Electric Bees?

Here are two facts that almost everybody knows: Flowers need bees for pollination, and bees need flowers for pollen and nectar.  The question then is- How do they find each other?

I have read from more than one source that flowers of some colors do a better job of attracting bees than flowers of other colors.  But here is what I have noticed in my unscientific observations: in my own yard yellow blossoms such as dandelions, squash, and broccoli blossoms do an excellent job of attracting bees.  The pink apple blossoms also get covered in bees.  White dutch clover doesn't have any trouble attracting the bees to their blossoms either.  And of course the blue and purple alfalfa blossoms just outside of town provide the most important nectar flow of the year in my area.  So does one color do a better job of attracting bees than the others?  I'm not really sure.

I am also aware that fragrance can attract bees as well.  Several years ago I read an article about how a pitcher for some major league baseball team (I don't remember who it was or what team he pitched for.  I want to say he pitched for the Diamondbacks, but it could have been that they were just in Arizona for spring training.) had to leave the game early because the honeybees would not leave him alone.  They were not stinging him, just constantly swarming around his head.  It turned out that he had used a coconut flavored hair gel that was attracting the bees to him.

It seems to me that honey bees must use a combination of sight and smell to find the most productive flowers.  But as it turns out there is a little more to the story.  I heard a story on the radio the other day about a third way that bees find flowers- by detecting electrical signals!  Apparently flowers give a weak electrical field which bees are able to detect.  The more I learn about bees the more amazed I become!

Here is a link to the article on NPR if you would like to check it out for yourself. 
Honey, It's Electric: Bees Sense Charge On Flowers


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