Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Getting a grip: 'Velcro'-like structure helps bees stick to flowers

18.05.2009
When bees collect nectar, how do they hold onto the flower? Cambridge University scientists have shown that it is down to small cone-shaped cells on the petals that act like 'velcro' on the bees' feet.

New research, published online in today's Current Biology, shows that bumblebees can recognise the texture of petal surfaces by touch alone. More importantly, they choose to land on petals with conical cells that make it easier to grip, rather than on flat, smooth surfaces. With this extra grip, they can extract nectar from the flower more efficiently.

In the natural world, bees can take visual or olfactory cues without needing to land on the flower itself. Their ability to identify conical-celled surfaces by touch would therefore seem to be of limited use in terms of flower recognition. The researchers, led by Beverley Glover, wondered whether the conical cells play a different role by providing better grip on an otherwise slippery plant surface, thereby making nectar collection easier for the bees.

To test this, the researchers used artificial flowers cast from epoxy resin, half with conical cells and half with flat surfaces. When these casts were horizontal, the bees showed no preference, visiting each type roughly half the time. However, once the angle of the cast increased, so did the bees' preference for the conical cells. When these casts were vertical, the bees visited the conical-celled ones over 60% of the time.

The researchers, who were funded by the Natural Environment Research Council (NERC), were able to visualise why the bees preferred conical cells. Using high-speed video photography they saw that when bees attempted to land on the flat-celled epoxy petals they would scramble for grip, rather like a climber struggling to find a foothold on an ice-covered cliff. However, on the conical-celled casts the bees were always able to find grip, stop beating their wings and feed on the flower.

The next step was to establish whether bees in the natural world actually preferred real flowers with conical cells. To test this, the researchers used snapdragon plants, which have conical petal cells, and mutant snapdragons, lacking such cells. When the flowers were horizontal and required little handling the bees would visit the conical-celled flowers 50% of the time. However when the flowers were vertical and required complex handling the bees learnt to recognise the conical-celled flowers and landed on them 74% of the time.

Around 80% of flowers have these conical cells and the researchers believe that all pollinators that land on flowers (such as butterflies, flies and other kinds of bee) may have a preference for petals with a rough surface.

Beverley Glover said: "For bees to maintain their balance and hold onto a flower is no easy task, especially in windy or wet conditions. It's great to see that evolution has come up with the simple solution of equipping flowers with a Velcro-like surface that bees can get a grip on".

For additional information please contact:

Simon Shears, Office of Communications, University of Cambridge
Tel: +44 (0) 1223 332300, +44 (0) 1223 748174
Email: simon.shears@admin.cam.ac.uk

Simon Shears | EurekAlert!
Further information:
http://www.cam.ac.uk

More articles from Life Sciences:

nachricht Can the immune system be boosted against Staphylococcus aureus by delivery of messenger RNA?
26.05.2017 | Paul-Ehrlich-Institut - Bundesinstitut für Impfstoffe und biomedizinische Arzneimittel

nachricht Discovery of a Key Regulatory Gene in Cardiac Valve Formation
24.05.2017 | Universität Basel

All articles from Life Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: A quantum walk of photons

Physicists from the University of Würzburg are capable of generating identical looking single light particles at the push of a button. Two new studies now demonstrate the potential this method holds.

The quantum computer has fuelled the imagination of scientists for decades: It is based on fundamentally different phenomena than a conventional computer....

Im Focus: Turmoil in sluggish electrons’ existence

An international team of physicists has monitored the scattering behaviour of electrons in a non-conducting material in real-time. Their insights could be beneficial for radiotherapy.

We can refer to electrons in non-conducting materials as ‘sluggish’. Typically, they remain fixed in a location, deep inside an atomic composite. It is hence...

Im Focus: Wafer-thin Magnetic Materials Developed for Future Quantum Technologies

Two-dimensional magnetic structures are regarded as a promising material for new types of data storage, since the magnetic properties of individual molecular building blocks can be investigated and modified. For the first time, researchers have now produced a wafer-thin ferrimagnet, in which molecules with different magnetic centers arrange themselves on a gold surface to form a checkerboard pattern. Scientists at the Swiss Nanoscience Institute at the University of Basel and the Paul Scherrer Institute published their findings in the journal Nature Communications.

Ferrimagnets are composed of two centers which are magnetized at different strengths and point in opposing directions. Two-dimensional, quasi-flat ferrimagnets...

Im Focus: World's thinnest hologram paves path to new 3-D world

Nano-hologram paves way for integration of 3-D holography into everyday electronics

An Australian-Chinese research team has created the world's thinnest hologram, paving the way towards the integration of 3D holography into everyday...

Im Focus: Using graphene to create quantum bits

In the race to produce a quantum computer, a number of projects are seeking a way to create quantum bits -- or qubits -- that are stable, meaning they are not much affected by changes in their environment. This normally needs highly nonlinear non-dissipative elements capable of functioning at very low temperatures.

In pursuit of this goal, researchers at EPFL's Laboratory of Photonics and Quantum Measurements LPQM (STI/SB), have investigated a nonlinear graphene-based...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

Marine Conservation: IASS Contributes to UN Ocean Conference in New York on 5-9 June

24.05.2017 | Event News

AWK Aachen Machine Tool Colloquium 2017: Internet of Production for Agile Enterprises

23.05.2017 | Event News

Dortmund MST Conference presents Individualized Healthcare Solutions with micro and nanotechnology

22.05.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

Physicists discover mechanism behind granular capillary effect

24.05.2017 | Physics and Astronomy

Measured for the first time: Direction of light waves changed by quantum effect

24.05.2017 | Physics and Astronomy

Marine Conservation: IASS Contributes to UN Ocean Conference in New York on 5-9 June

24.05.2017 | Event News

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>