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.

One Very Long Migratory Route for a Dragonfly

The body and wings of the dragonfly Pantala flavescens have evolved in a way that lets the insect glide extraordinary distances on weather currents. Credit: Greg Lasley

A dragonfly barely an inch and a half long appears to be animal world’s most prolific long distance traveler – flying thousands of miles over oceans as it migrates from continent to continent – according to newly published research in the journal PLOS ONE. Biologists at Rutgers University found that populations of this dragonfly  in locations as far apart as Texas, eastern Canada, Japan, Korea, India, and South America, have genetic profiles so similar that there is only one likely explanation. Apparently, these insects are traveling extraordinarily long distances, and they are breeding with each other, creating a common worldwide gene pool that would be impossible if they did not intermingle. “This is the first time anyone has looked at genes to see how far these insects have traveled,” said Jessica Ware, senior author of the study.