Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Artificial meadows and robot spiders reveal secret life of bees

03.09.2008
Many animals learn to avoid being eaten by predators. Now ecologists have discovered that bumblebees can even learn to outwit colour-changing crab spiders.

Dr Tom Ings of Queen Mary, University of London will tell the British Ecological Society's Annual Meeting at Imperial College, London about how he and his colleague Professor Lars Chittka reached this conclusion using an artificial meadow containing robotic crab spiders.

The ongoing battle between predators and prey has fascinated ecologists for decades, and Ings is no exception. But instead of studying iconic predators such as lions or tigers, his interests lie closer to home with bumblebees and crab spiders.

According to Ings: “Crab spiders try to ambush unsuspecting flower visitors, such as bumblebees, by changing their body colour to match the flower they are lurking on. Even so, these spiders often fail to catch their prey, giving bees the chance to learn to avoid further - potentially fatal - encounters. We already know that animals, including bees, can learn to avoid predators, but we know almost nothing about how they do it. For example, do bees learn to avoid the location where they were attacked or the flower type on which they were attacked?”

To test how bumblebees learn to avoid predators such as crab spiders, Ings let them forage in a “meadow” of artificial flowers and exposed the bees to a controlled predation threat from “robotic” crab spiders. These robotic spiders, which consisted of a life-sized crab spider model and two remote-controlled, foam-coated pinchers, would capture and hold bees as they landed to feed. The meadow contained a mixture of yellow and white flowers with robotic spiders present on 25% of the yellow flowers in order to test whether bees' colour preference would switch from yellow to white after being attacked on yellow flowers.

“We found bees learnt to avoid flowers that look the same as those where they had previously been attacked. More importantly, after a few attacks bees started to avoid flowers of the same colour as those where they had previously been attacked, even if there were no spiders,” Ings says.

As well as revealing fascinating insights into how bumblebees learn to avoid becoming a crab spider’s dinner, Ings’ results have important implications for pollination and raise interesting questions about evolution of predator camouflage.

“Many flowers rely on insects such as bees for pollination. So our finding that bees avoid flowers of the same colour as those where they were previously attacked could mean these flowers are less likely to be pollinated. Our results also raise interesting questions about evolution of predator camouflage. Spiders use up energy changing colour, which can take several days. So why do they waste energy camouflaging themselves if it does not increase their chances of capturing prey? It might be that camouflage reduces the chances of crab spiders being eaten by their own predators such as birds, but this idea still needs to be tested experimentally,” says Ings.

Dr Ings will present his full findings at 12:20 on Wednesday 3 September 2008 to the British Ecological Society’s Annual Meeting at Imperial College, London.

Becky Allen | alfa
Further information:
http://www.britishecologicalsociety.org

More articles from Life Sciences:

nachricht The balancing act: An enzyme that links endocytosis to membrane recycling
07.12.2016 | National Centre for Biological Sciences

nachricht Transforming plant cells from generalists to specialists
07.12.2016 | Duke University

All articles from Life Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

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

Im Focus: Significantly more productivity in USP lasers

In recent years, lasers with ultrashort pulses (USP) down to the femtosecond range have become established on an industrial scale. They could advance some applications with the much-lauded “cold ablation” – if that meant they would then achieve more throughput. A new generation of process engineering that will address this issue in particular will be discussed at the “4th UKP Workshop – Ultrafast Laser Technology” in April 2017.

Even back in the 1990s, scientists were comparing materials processing with nanosecond, picosecond and femtosesecond pulses. The result was surprising:...

Im Focus: Shape matters when light meets atom

Mapping the interaction of a single atom with a single photon may inform design of quantum devices

Have you ever wondered how you see the world? Vision is about photons of light, which are packets of energy, interacting with the atoms or molecules in what...

Im Focus: Novel silicon etching technique crafts 3-D gradient refractive index micro-optics

A multi-institutional research collaboration has created a novel approach for fabricating three-dimensional micro-optics through the shape-defined formation of porous silicon (PSi), with broad impacts in integrated optoelectronics, imaging, and photovoltaics.

Working with colleagues at Stanford and The Dow Chemical Company, researchers at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign fabricated 3-D birefringent...

Im Focus: Quantum Particles Form Droplets

In experiments with magnetic atoms conducted at extremely low temperatures, scientists have demonstrated a unique phase of matter: The atoms form a new type of quantum liquid or quantum droplet state. These so called quantum droplets may preserve their form in absence of external confinement because of quantum effects. The joint team of experimental physicists from Innsbruck and theoretical physicists from Hannover report on their findings in the journal Physical Review X.

“Our Quantum droplets are in the gas phase but they still drop like a rock,” explains experimental physicist Francesca Ferlaino when talking about the...

Im Focus: MADMAX: Max Planck Institute for Physics takes up axion research

The Max Planck Institute for Physics (MPP) is opening up a new research field. A workshop from November 21 - 22, 2016 will mark the start of activities for an innovative axion experiment. Axions are still only purely hypothetical particles. Their detection could solve two fundamental problems in particle physics: What dark matter consists of and why it has not yet been possible to directly observe a CP violation for the strong interaction.

The “MADMAX” project is the MPP’s commitment to axion research. Axions are so far only a theoretical prediction and are difficult to detect: on the one hand,...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

ICTM Conference 2017: Production technology for turbomachine manufacturing of the future

16.11.2016 | Event News

Innovation Day Laser Technology – Laser Additive Manufacturing

01.11.2016 | Event News

#IC2S2: When Social Science meets Computer Science - GESIS will host the IC2S2 conference 2017

14.10.2016 | Event News

 
Latest News

NTU scientists build new ultrasound device using 3-D printing technology

07.12.2016 | Health and Medicine

The balancing act: An enzyme that links endocytosis to membrane recycling

07.12.2016 | Life Sciences

How to turn white fat brown

07.12.2016 | Health and Medicine

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>