Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Final moments of bee landing tactics revealed

Date:
January 2, 2010
Source:
The Company of Biologists
Summary:
When bees come into land they slow their speed as they approach, but what happens in the final instants before touch down? Using high speed video, scientists from Australia and Sweden have found that there are three stages to the final touch down: a quasi-hover, a stable hover 16mm from the surface and finally a gentle touch down. Using this approach, bees can land on surfaces ranging from the horizontal to completely inverted ceilings.

Bees manage their approach by monitoring the speed of images moving across their eyes. By slowing so that the speed of the looming landing pad's image on the retina remains constant, bees manage to control their approach.
Credit: iStockphoto/Amit Erez

Landing is tricky: hit the ground too fast and you will crash and burn; too slow and you may stall and fall. Bees manage their approach by monitoring the speed of images moving across their eyes. By slowing so that the speed of the looming landing pad's image on the retina remains constant, bees manage to control their approach. But what happens in the final few moments before touch down? And how do bees adapt to landing on surfaces ranging from the horizontal to upside-down ceilings?

Flies land on a ceiling by simply grabbing hold with their front legs and somersaulting up as they zip along, but a bee's approach is more sedate. Mandyam Srinivasan, an electrical engineer from the Queensland Brain Institute, The University of Queensland and the Australian Research Council's Vision Centre, knew that bees must be doing something different from daredevil flies. Curious to know more about bee landing strategies Srinivasan teamed up with Carla Evangelista, Peter Kraft, and Judith Reinhard from the University of Queensland, and Marie Dacke, visiting from Lund University.

The team used a high-speed camera to film the instant of touch down on surfaces at various inclinations and publish their discoveries about bee landing tactics in The Journal of Experimental Biology on December 28 2009 at http://jeb.biologists.org.

First the scientists built a bee-landing platform that could be inclined at any angle from horizontal to inverted (like a ceiling), then they trained bees to land on it and began filming. Having collected movies of the bees landing on surfaces ranging from 0deg. to 180deg., and every 10deg. inclination between, Evangelista began the painstaking task of manually analysing the bees landing strategies, and saw that the bees' approach could be broken down into 3 phases.

Initially the bees approached from almost any direction and at any speed, however, as they got closer to the platforms, they slowed dramatically, almost hovering, until they were 16mm from the platform when they ground to a complete halt, hovering for anything ranging from 50ms to over 140ms. When the surface was horizontal or inclined slightly, the bees' hind legs were almost within touching distance of the surface, so it was simply a matter of the bee gently lowering itself and grabbing hold with its rear feet before lowering the rest of the body.

However, when the insects were landing on surfaces ranging from vertical to 'ceilings', their antennae were closest to the surface during the hover phase. The team saw that the antennae grazed the surface and this contact triggered the bees to reach up with the front legs, grasp hold of the surface and then slowly heave their middle and hind legs up too. 'We had not expected the antennae to play a role and the fact that there is a mechanical aspect of this is something that we hadn't thought about,' admits Srinivasan.

Looking at the antennae's positions, the team realised that in the final stages as the insects approached inverted surfaces, they held their antennae roughly perpendicular to the surface. 'The bee is able to estimate the slope of the surface to orient correctly the antennae, so it is using its visual system,' explains Srinivasan. But this is surprising, because the insects are almost completely stationary while hovering and unable to use image movement across the eye to estimate distances. Srinivasan suspects that the bees could be using stereovision over such a short distance, and is keen to test the idea.

Finally the team realised that bees are almost tailor made to land on surfaces inclined at angles of 60deg. to the horizontal. 'When bees are flying fast their bodies are horizontal, but when they are flying slowly or hovering their abdomen tilts down so that the tips of the legs and antennae lie in a plane that makes an angle of 60deg.' explains Srinivasan: so the legs and antennae all touch down simultaneously on surfaces inclined at 60deg. 'It seems like they are adapted to land on surfaces tilted to 60deg. and we are keen to find out whether many flowers have this natural tilt,' says Srinivasan.

Srinivasan is optimistic that he will eventually be able to use his discoveries in the design of novel flight control systems.


Story Source:

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


Journal Reference:

  1. Evangelista, C., Kraft, P., Dacke, M., Reinhard, J. and Srinivasan, M. V. The moment before touchdown: landing manoeuvres of the honeybee Apis mellifera. Journal of Experimental Biology, 2010 [link]

Cite This Page:

The Company of Biologists. "Final moments of bee landing tactics revealed." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 2 January 2010. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2009/12/091223074657.htm>.
The Company of Biologists. (2010, January 2). Final moments of bee landing tactics revealed. ScienceDaily. Retrieved September 30, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2009/12/091223074657.htm
The Company of Biologists. "Final moments of bee landing tactics revealed." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2009/12/091223074657.htm (accessed September 30, 2014).

Share This



More Plants & Animals News

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

California University Designs Sustainable Winery

California University Designs Sustainable Winery

Reuters - US Online Video (Sep. 27, 2014) Amid California's worst drought in decades, scientists at UC Davis design a sustainable winery that includes a water recycling system. Vanessa Johnston reports. Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com
Argentina Worries Over Decline of Soybean Prices

Argentina Worries Over Decline of Soybean Prices

AFP (Sep. 27, 2014) The drop in price of soy on the international market is a cause for concern in Argentina, as soybean exports are a major source of income for Latin America's third largest economy. Duration: 01:10 Video provided by AFP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Mama Bear, Cubs Hang out in California Backyard

Mama Bear, Cubs Hang out in California Backyard

Reuters - US Online Video (Sep. 27, 2014) A mama bear and her two cubs climb trees, wrestle and take naps in the backyard of a Monrovia, California home. Vanessa Johnston reports. Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com
'Crazy' Climate Forces Colombian Farmers to Adapt

'Crazy' Climate Forces Colombian Farmers to Adapt

AFP (Sep. 26, 2014) Once upon a time, farming was a blissfully low-tech business on Colombia's northern plains. Duration: 02:05 Video provided by AFP
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:

Strange & Offbeat Stories


Plants & Animals

Earth & Climate

Fossils & Ruins

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