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Conversations between Flowers and Bees are Electrifying

Update Date: Feb 22, 2013 03:22 PM EST

The relationship between flowers and bees seems to be more than just give and take. According to a new study published in Science, flowers can communicate with bees through emitting certain electrical currents. In this study, the researchers focused on the types of electrical charges that these two species conduct. Since bees are moving organisms, they are constantly surrounded by particles such as dust and charged molecules. These particles force the bees to lose electrons from the friction, rendering them to be positively charged. The flowers, on the other hand, are stationary and conduct electricity through the ground in a very slow process that leads them to become negatively charged. It is through these differently charged organisms that conversation occurs.

"We just now have discovered that electrical potentials, an unavoidable by-product of flying in the air for bumblebees and being grounded for the flower, is being exploited to benefit both parties," observed co-author and professor from the University of Bristol's School of Biological Science, Daniel Robert. 

In the experiment, the team put petunia flowers and free-flying foraging bees together and observed how the two interacted with each other's electrical currents. It is known that bees like to land on flowers due to the pollen that flowers have. But now, it appears that there is a deeper connection between the two. When bees land on the flowers, a new electrical field is created and thus a spark occurs which helps improve a bee's memory of foraging flowers and makes the flower electrically charged for awhile after the initial meeting. Due to the different sparks that different flowers create, bees can start to learn which color flowers they prefer to pollinate with. This type of communication helps flowers continually attract pollinators while bees never forget to seek the benefits of the flowers. 

This study can provide the grounds for understanding how flowers may communicate with other species like humans. But for the meantime, flowers continue to be a symbol of beauty and prosperity within our society. 

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