This site uses cookies. By continuing to use this site you agree to our use of cookies. To find out more, see our Privacy and Cookies policy.
Skip to the content

Share this

Free weekly newswire

Sign up to receive all our latest news direct to your inbox.

Physics on film

100 Second Science Your scientific questions answered simply by specialists in less than 100 seconds.

Watch now

Bright Recruits

At all stages of your career – whether you're an undergraduate, graduate, researcher or industry professional – brightrecruits.com can help find the job for you.

Find your perfect job

Physics connect

Are you looking for a supplier? Physics Connect lists thousands of scientific companies, businesses, non-profit organizations, institutions and experts worldwide.

Start your search today

Blog

Flowers and bees communicate using electric fields

By Hamish Johnston

Half of each of these flowers has been treated with a charged powder. (Courtesy: Dominic Clarke and Daniel Robert)

Half of each of these flowers has been treated with a charged powder.
(Courtesy: Dominic Clarke and Daniel Robert)

Spring will soon be upon many of us – and for me, nothing evokes the spirit of the season more than a bee buzzing from flower to flower on a warm, sunny afternoon. But I never would have guessed that a bee takes a measure of a flower’s electrical field before it alights.

That’s the claim of biologists at the UK’s University of Bristol, who have shown that bees and plants exchange “information” in the form of electrical charge.

According to Daniel Robert, Heather Whitney and colleagues, flowers tend to accumulate negative charge, whereas bees gain positive charge as they fly. When a bee lands on a flower, some of the charge is neutralized and the flower takes several minutes to charge up again – which the team discovered by placing electrodes on the stems of petunias.

The team also used a charged powder to modify the charge on the surface of several different types of flower and found that the bees were able to distinguish between flowers with different charges.

The biologists speculate that the charge of a flower could tell a bee how long it has been since the flower was last visited by an insect. “This novel communication channel reveals how flowers can potentially inform their pollinators about the honest status of their precious nectar and pollen reserves,” explains Whitney.

Finally, the team devised a learning test for the bees, which had the insects distinguishing between different colours. The researchers found that the creatures learned faster when different colours were accompanied by different electrical fields.

The research is described in this paper in Science and also in this press release from the university.

This entry was posted in General and tagged . Bookmark the permalink.
View all posts by this author  | View this author's profile

5 comments

  1. M. Asghar

    Quite instructive. Is the buzzing of the wings producing some ionistaion, the source of bees’ positive charge? The negative charge of flowers, is it due to the sun light?

  2. reader01

    Can be the bees that comunicate with electric charge with flowers and vice versa?

  3. M. Asghar

    This is the aim of this work, if it is confirmed.

Leave a comment

Your e-mail address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Guidelines

  • Comments should be relevant to the article and not be used to promote your own work, products or services.
  • Please keep your comments brief (we recommend a maximum of 250 words).
  • We reserve the right to remove excessively long, inappropriate or offensive entries.

Show/hide formatting guidelines

Tag Description Example Output
<a> Hyperlink <a href="http://www.google.com">google</a> google
<abbr> Abbreviation <abbr title="World Health Organisation" >WHO</abbr> WHO
<acronym> Acronym <acronym title="as soon as possible">ASAP</acronym> ASAP
<b> Bold <b>Some text</b> Some text
<blockquote> Quoted from another source <blockquote cite="http://iop.org/">IOP</blockquote>
IOP
<cite> Cite <cite>Diagram 1</cite> Diagram 1
<del> Deleted text From this line<del datetime="2012-12-17"> this text was deleted</del> From this line this text was deleted
<em> Emphasized text In this line<em> this text was emphasised</em> In this line this text was emphasised
<i> Italic <i>Some text</i> Some text
<q> Quotation WWF goal is to build a future <q cite="http://www.worldwildlife.org/who/index.html">
where people live in harmony with nature and animals</q>
WWF goal is to build a future
where people live in harmony with nature and animals
<strike> Strike text <strike>Some text</strike> Some text
<strong> Stronger emphasis of text <strong>Some text</strong> Some text
WordPress Appliance - Powered by TurnKey Linux