The sound of a buzzing bee is seemingly a simple sound we hear on the average summer day, a sound we often pay no mind. But for bees, buzzing has a vast importance.
Bees buzz during courtship, to send a signal if they are caught or trapped, and most importantly to collect pollen through an instinct called sonication.
Some flowers keep their pollen hidden in structures called anthers. To retrieve the pollen from anthers, bees bite down and buzz until their vibrations disperse pollen from the flower. Recently, some scientists examined whether the process of sonication, also known as 'buzz pollination,' is learned or innate.
Specifically, researchers at the University of Arizona sought to determine if bees learn to get the hidden pollen or if they are born with the ability. Avery L. Russell, Daniel R Papai, and their colleagues constructed various experiments with flowers that require sonication to find an answer. The bees in the experiment were raised in a laboratory and had never seen a flower. Yet, when exposed to a flower that required sonication, they knew what to do.
As explained in the study, first, bees grab onto a flower's anthers with their mandibles and buzz until they are drenched in pollen. Next, they brush the pollen off their legs and other body parts. Then they finally stick the pollen onto the "pollen baskets" on their rear legs.
What researchers found was that bees adapt quickly to a new plants. This finding suggests that if vegetation changes due to climate change, bees can easily figure out their new environment, even if they are forced into new areas.
Russell describes this as a "mixed blessing." While bees' being able to adapt quickly to a new habitat is good, it could also mean that bees could be successful invaders of other areas, possibly at the expense of other species.
[Source: The New York Times]