Study Shows How Bumblebees and Flowers Communicate

2 min read
By Kendall Curley    June 26, 2018 at 07:35PM

Science has found that flowers work in a variety of ways to attract bees and other pollinators to them in order to speed up the pollination process.

 

A recent study found that bumblebees not only follow the visual cues—lines and patterns that point to the middle of the flower and color differences—that a flower provide, but they also follow the scent patterns of a flower.

 

Lead author of the study, Dr. Dave Lawson from University of Bristol’s School of Biological Sciences, says, “If you look at a flower with a microscope, you can often see that the cells that produce the flower's scent are arranged in patterns.”

 

He explains, “By creating artificial flowers that have identical scents arranged in different patterns, we are able to show that this patterning might be a signal to a bee. For a flower, it's not just smelling nice that's important, but also where you put the scent in the first place.”

 

The study shows scientists that while the scent of the flower is important in attracting a bumblebee, it is also used as a way to signal and lead bumblebees to the nectar. It is also significant because it shows that bees can switch from one sense to another and understand what they mean.

 

Senior author, Dr. Sean Rands from Bristol, explains, “If bees can learn patterns using one sense (smell) and then transfer this to a different sense (vision), it makes sense that flowers advertise in lots of ways at the same time, as learning one signal will mean that the bee is primed to respond positively to different signals that they have never encountered.”

 

While this research may not seem like a huge revelation in the study of flowers and bees, it is actually a part of a bigger, ongoing research effort to better understand the ways in which plants communicate with their pollinators.

 

As Science Daily explains, “Around 75 percent of all food grown globally relies on flowers being pollinated by animals such as bees.” By understanding the unique and intricate ways in which flowers communicate with their pollinators, scientists and humans in general can learn how to protect and foster the continual pollination process.

 

 

Image via AK-Media/Shutterstock.com

 

 

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