Vibrating hairs signify how bumblebees sense

31st May 2016

Tiny and vibrating - or dancing - hairs on bumblebees' bodies may explain how they sense and interpret signals transmitted by flowers, according to a new study.

Research was carried out at the University of Bristol and although it's known that flowers communicate with pollinators by sending out electric signals, their method has been mysterious.

That is up until now, as scientists have used a laser to measure vibrations and discovered that the bees' antenna and hairs deflect in response to an electric field and they move more rapidly with greater displacements overall.

By looking at the nervous system of the insect, the team found that only the hairs alert the animal's system to this particular signal, known as electroreception.

Dr Gregory Sutton, a research fellow in the University of Bristol's School of Biological Sciences, said: "We were excited to discover that bees' tiny hairs dance in response to electric fields, like when humans hold a balloon to their hair."

He added that because other insects have similar body hairs "many members in [this] world may be equally sensitive to small electric fields".

Posted by Philip Briggs



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