Bumblebees' Little Hairs Can Sense Flowers' Electric Fields

Scientists say bumblebees can sense flowers’ electric fields through the bees’ fuzzy hairs. photo by: Jens Meyer/AP

By Nell GreenfieldBoyce

 

Flowers generate weak electric fields, and a new study shows that bumblebees can actually sense those electric fields using the tiny hairs on their fuzzy little bodies. “The bumblebees can feel that hair bend and use that feeling to tell the difference between flowers,” says Gregory Sutton, a Royal Society University Research Fellow at the University of Bristol in the United Kingdom. People used to think that perceiving natural electric fields was something that animals only did in water. Sharks and eels can do it, for example.