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 Researchers find new mutation in the leptin gene
24.06.2019 | Texas Biomedical Research Institute

nachricht Straight to the heart
24.06.2019 | Max-Delbrück-Centrum für Molekulare Medizin in der Helmholtz-Gemeinschaft

All articles from Life Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

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

Im Focus: Fraunhofer IDMT demonstrates its method for acoustic quality inspection at »Sensor+Test 2019« in Nürnberg

From June 25th to 27th 2019, the Fraunhofer Institute for Digital Media Technology IDMT in Ilmenau (Germany) will be presenting a new solution for acoustic quality inspection allowing contact-free, non-destructive testing of manufactured parts and components. The method which has reached Technology Readiness Level 6 already, is currently being successfully tested in practical use together with a number of industrial partners.

Reducing machine downtime, manufacturing defects, and excessive scrap

Im Focus: Successfully Tested in Praxis: Bidirectional Sensor Technology Optimizes Laser Material Deposition

The quality of additively manufactured components depends not only on the manufacturing process, but also on the inline process control. The process control ensures a reliable coating process because it detects deviations from the target geometry immediately. At LASER World of PHOTONICS 2019, the Fraunhofer Institute for Laser Technology ILT will be demonstrating how well bi-directional sensor technology can already be used for Laser Material Deposition (LMD) in combination with commercial optics at booth A2.431.

Fraunhofer ILT has been developing optical sensor technology specifically for production measurement technology for around 10 years. In particular, its »bd-1«...

Im Focus: The hidden structure of the periodic system

The well-known representation of chemical elements is just one example of how objects can be arranged and classified

The periodic table of elements that most chemistry books depict is only one special case. This tabular overview of the chemical elements, which goes back to...

Im Focus: MPSD team discovers light-induced ferroelectricity in strontium titanate

Light can be used not only to measure materials’ properties, but also to change them. Especially interesting are those cases in which the function of a material can be modified, such as its ability to conduct electricity or to store information in its magnetic state. A team led by Andrea Cavalleri from the Max Planck Institute for the Structure and Dynamics of Matter in Hamburg used terahertz frequency light pulses to transform a non-ferroelectric material into a ferroelectric one.

Ferroelectricity is a state in which the constituent lattice “looks” in one specific direction, forming a macroscopic electrical polarisation. The ability to...

Im Focus: Determining the Earth’s gravity field more accurately than ever before

Researchers at TU Graz calculate the most accurate gravity field determination of the Earth using 1.16 billion satellite measurements. This yields valuable knowledge for climate research.

The Earth’s gravity fluctuates from place to place. Geodesists use this phenomenon to observe geodynamic and climatological processes. Using...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

VideoLinks
Industry & Economy
Event News

2nd International Conference on UV LED Technologies & Applications – ICULTA 2020 | Call for Abstracts

24.06.2019 | Event News

SEMANTiCS 2019 brings together industry leaders and data scientists in Karlsruhe

29.04.2019 | Event News

Revered mathematicians and computer scientists converge with 200 young researchers in Heidelberg!

17.04.2019 | Event News

 
Latest News

2nd International Conference on UV LED Technologies & Applications – ICULTA 2020 | Call for Abstracts

24.06.2019 | Event News

'Sneezing' plants contribute to disease proliferation

24.06.2019 | Agricultural and Forestry Science

Researchers find new mutation in the leptin gene

24.06.2019 | Life Sciences

VideoLinks
Science & Research
Overview of more VideoLinks >>>