Scientists discover insects' secret
13 June 2012
If you've ever wondered how bees and other insects hold on to flowers on a windy day, scientists believe they have found the answer.
Researchers have known for some time that bees prefer petals with conical cells, which are found in the majority of flowers from roses to petunias. However, the reason for the preference has remained largely a mystery, until now.
The team from Cambridge and Bristol Universities recreated a 'shaking platform' to mimic the way flowers move in the wind, using both conical-celled flowers and strains with flat cells. They found that the more they shook the platform, the more bees opted for the conical-celled petals.
It's thought the bees use the gaps between the cells as footholds in blustery conditions, locking their claws into them in a similar way to Velcro fabric fasteners, and helping them hold on to the flowers.
'Nobody knew what these cells were for, and now we have a good answer that works for pretty much all flowers,' said report author Dr Beverley Glover. 'It's too easy to look at flowers from a human perspective, but when you put yourself into the bee's shoes you find hidden features of flowers can be crucial to foraging success.'