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Bees can sense flowers’ electric fields, say researchers

Ross Cronkrite | Science Recorder | February 21, 2013

Bees can sense flowers’ electric fields, say researchers

The communication between bees and flowers is “remarkably sophisticated.”

Researchers from the University of Bristol have discovered that bees and plants are able to communicate via electric signals. Communication between bees and flowers is crucial, as bees play an important role in maintaining natural plant communities and ensuring productions of seeds in most flowering plants.

“Insects use several senses to forage, detecting floral cues such as color, shape, pattern, and volatiles. We report a formerly unappreciated sensory modality in bumblebees (Bombus terrestris), detection of floral electric fields,” write the researchers in the study’s abstract. “These fields act as floral cues, which are affected by the visit of naturally charged bees. Like visual cues, floral electric fields exhibit variations in pattern and structure, which can be discriminated by bumblebees.” 

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