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Bees Smell Flowers

June 18, 2018

Flowers produce invisible smell patterns on their surfaces to lure bees in.

Transcript

A captive bumblebee walks across the surface of an artificial flower, working out the pattern of scent that has been made by placing peppermint oil in some of the holes. (Dave Lawson, University of Bristol)

A captive bumblebee walks across the surface of an artificial flower, working out the pattern of scent that has been made by placing peppermint oil in some of the holes. (Dave Lawson, University of Bristol)

BOB HIRSHON (host):

Bees sniff out flowers. I’m Bob Hirshon and this is Science Update.

Flowers advertise themselves to insect pollinators with pretty colors and scents. These form patterns across the surface of the flowers. Now, a study in the Proceedings of the Royal Society B suggests that bumblebees can differentiate between flowers based on these patterns. University of Bristol researcher Dave Lawson and his team tested this by creating artificial flowers with different scent patterns. Bumblebees learned to distinguish between the flowers with a high degree of accuracy.

DAVE LAWSON (University of Bristol):

The spatial fragrance patterns may allow pollinators to find the nectar within the flower faster.

HIRSHON:

Lawson says once the bees learned a scent pattern, they could identify visual images that matched the same pattern, even without an odor. Scent patterns could help these important pollinators find the flowers they need most. I’m Bob Hirshon, for AAAS, the science society.

Story by Susanne Bard