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Bees Bite Plants to Make Them Flower Early, Surprising Scientists

Sputniktilt, CC license

Despite its name, there is no clumsiness in the movements of a bumblebee. They are busy surveying their garden for the richest and tastiest supplies of nectar and pollen.

They also chew on small pieces of leaves as they go, but do not ingest or return the leaf fragments to the hive. Instead, like so many gardeners with their pruning shears, bees they are manipulating flowers so that they bloom sooner than normal, a discovery that has scientists buzzing around.

Between the time of their appearance and the month of April, when the flowers are abundant, buff-tailed bumble bees were observed in a Swiss research laboratory during several trials to prune the leaves of the preferred plants when they were not in flower when the colony of bees had been deprived of pollen. . This was in contrast to the actions, both in the laboratory and on the roof of the building, of another colony that was not pollen starved.

Plus, they had a profound effect on the plants they pruned. His bite attracted flowers from a tomato plant a month earlier and black mustard plants two weeks earlier.

Continuing his rooftop research, the Swiss beekeeper / scientist discovered that in early summer, wild bees of two other species began visiting and piercing the leaves in non-flowering plant patches.

A good sign and a fair deal.

Such a deep development in our understanding of a well-researched insect is exciting, and a collection of biologists had a lot to say. National Geographic about the find.

Some suggest that it was an exceptional display of communication not only between different species, but between different kingdoms, since biting the leaves could be the way in which the bee alerts the flower of its need for food and offers its services as a pollinator to change.

MORE: Flowers can hear the buzzing of bees and it makes their nectar sweeter

The question of why to bite and what is the mechanism that translates the sensation into an early flowering is still open for debate. The Swiss researchers poked the leaves of their plants with tiny razor blades shaped like puncture marks made by bees, and although this caused the plant to flower earlier, it didn’t happen as quickly as when the bees made the marks.

This suggests that there could be another piece of biological equipment that bees have that works in conjunction with their jaws, perhaps an olfactory or scent gland. If that mechanism could be discovered, it could be the biggest development in agriculture since nitrogen fertilizer, as farmers could include much more in a single season, and for those who maintain orchards, control when bees visit for pollination.

Another hypothesis that has been developed in the wake of the discovery is that if plant species change their flowering patterns due to the effects of a changing climate, bees may still have the ability to manipulate their preferred plants to produce flowers in time to avoid hunger.

RELATED: Airport asks beekeepers to save pollinators

Neal Williams, a bee biologist at UC Davis, commented on how wonderful it was that even in the year 2021, such a great discovery could come simply from observing an animal in its daily activities.

BUZZ This fascinating story for friends on social media …

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