Sunday, February 24, 2013

New Discovery About How Flowers Communicate Using Electrical Fields

"Flower Power" Copyright Julian Harris and Dominic Clarke

The next time a beautiful flower captivates you, and you want to see if you it has a detectable fragrance, be courteous, and remove your shoes and socks.  Grounding yourself with the Earth might be a huge compliment to the flower, and help the flower communicate with you!  ~Madison Reed

“When you bend over to sniff a flower, it will change (the flower’s electrical) potential.  What the flower makes of that, I would not know… But I do hope very much that someone will take this up and look into it.”
"The last thing a flower wants is to attract a bee and then fail to provide nectar: a lesson in honest advertising since bees are good learners and would soon lose interest in such an unrewarding flower."
~Professor Daniel Robert of the University of Bristol's School of Biological Sciences

Flowers Communicate With Electricity

by Jennifer Viegas

Flowers may be silent, but scientists have just discovered that electric fields allow them to communicate with bumblebees and possibly other species, including humans.

It’s well known that color, shape, pattern and fragrances allow flowers to connect with pollinators, but the new study, published in the journal Science, adds electricity to this already impressive lineup.

“We just now have discovered that electrical potentials, an unavoidable by-product of flying in air for bumblebees and being grounded for the flower, is being exploited to benefit both parties,” co-author Daniel Robert told Discovery News. It’s “another example of the beauty of evolution,” added Robert, a professor in the University of Bristol’s School of Biological Sciences.

ANALYSIS: Plants Smell Fruit Flies' Funk

He explained that bees have a positive electrical charge because they fly in air, which is full of all kinds of tiny particles, such as dust and charged molecules. Friction from these particles causes bees to lose electrons, leaving bumblebees positively charged.

Flowers, on the other hand, “are electrically connected to ground,” he said. Unlike copper wire, which transfers charges very quickly, plants conduct electricity very slowly and tend to possess a negative charge.

For the study, Robert and his team placed petunia flowers in an area with free-flying foraging bees. The researchers then studied how interactions between the two changed the electric fields and the bees’ behavior.

They determined that when a bee lands on a flower, this generates its own electrical field, and therefore a force. It’s as though a mini spark results when the two connect.

Robert and his colleagues believe “that the bee can sense this electrically induced force.” It appears to improve the bee’s memory of flower rewards, such as pollen and nectar, affecting later foraging.

The flower, in turn, is electrically changed for a short period after the interaction.....

Jennifer Viegas' article continues at



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