Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

How Bees Hold Onto Flowers: 'Velcro'-like Structures On Flower Petals Help Bees Stick

Date:
May 15, 2009
Source:
University of Cambridge
Summary:
When bees collect nectar, how do they hold onto the flower? Scientists have s now shown that it is down to small cone-shaped cells on the petals that act like Velcro on the bees' feet.

Honey bees were gathering nectar from plum blossoms.
Credit: iStockphoto/James Brey

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 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".


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by University of Cambridge. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. Heather M. Whitney, Lars Chittka, Toby J.A. Bruce, and Beverley J. Glover. Conical Epidermal Cells Allow Bees to Grip Flowers and Increase Foraging Efficiency. Current Biology, 2009; DOI: 10.1016/j.cub.2009.04.051

Cite This Page:

University of Cambridge. "How Bees Hold Onto Flowers: 'Velcro'-like Structures On Flower Petals Help Bees Stick." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 15 May 2009. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2009/05/090514125148.htm>.
University of Cambridge. (2009, May 15). How Bees Hold Onto Flowers: 'Velcro'-like Structures On Flower Petals Help Bees Stick. ScienceDaily. Retrieved July 28, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2009/05/090514125148.htm
University of Cambridge. "How Bees Hold Onto Flowers: 'Velcro'-like Structures On Flower Petals Help Bees Stick." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2009/05/090514125148.htm (accessed July 28, 2014).

Share This




More Plants & Animals News

Monday, July 28, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Traditional African Dishes Teach Healthy Eating

Traditional African Dishes Teach Healthy Eating

AP (July 28, 2014) Classes are being offered nationwide to encourage African Americans to learn about cooking fresh foods based on traditional African cuisine. The program is trying to combat obesity, heart disease and other ailments often linked to diet. (July 28) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Raw: Sea Turtle Hatchlings Emerge from Nest

Raw: Sea Turtle Hatchlings Emerge from Nest

AP (July 27, 2014) A live-streaming webcam catches loggerhead sea turtle hatchlings emerging from a nest in the Florida Keys. (July 27) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Russia Saves Gecko Sex Satellite, Media Has Some Fun With It

Russia Saves Gecko Sex Satellite, Media Has Some Fun With It

Newsy (July 27, 2014) The satellite is back under ground control after a tense few days, but with a gecko sex experiment on board, the media just couldn't help themselves. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Trees Could Save More Than 850 Lives Each Year

Trees Could Save More Than 850 Lives Each Year

Newsy (July 27, 2014) A national study conducted by the USDA Forest Service found that trees collectively save more than 850 lives on an annual basis. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:
from the past week

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile: iPhone Android Web
Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins