News Stories

Bees Tricked!

By a femme fatale flower - Some people find orchids erotic, because their shape tends to mimic female sexual organs. Bees find them erotic too, and trick male bees into pollinating them by mimicking the SMELL of female bees. By the time the male has done his job, his body is covered with pollen and he flies away to what he perceives to be another lady bee and deposits it all there. It's pretty amazing, when you stop to think about it.

In BBC News, Rebecca Morelle reports that orchid growers think this may create new species of orchids, something they are always looking for. Bees like to follow the leader, and once a bee has found a honey source (or a sexy flower) and gone home and done a bee dance, the entire colony explodes from the hive and all aim for the same location. This means that if there's something dangerous there, they'll all be affected.

In BBC News, Jody Bourton quotes bee researcher Juliana Rangel as saying, "We wanted to determine what bees are responsible for organizing this mass departure, and how they organize this process in an efficient manner." She wants to know how "how a small group of individuals can make important decisions for an entire group," because if beekeepers understand this, they may be able to divert their swarms from dangerous areas (that are heavily sprayed with pesticides, for instance) and lure them to safe plants instead.

Meanwhile, we need bees more than ever, since they (along with your smartphone) can sniff out terrorism.Honeybees have incredibly sensitive noses, which they use to help track down nectar. Realizing this, scientists in the UK are training bees to sniff out bombs and drugs, with the result that you soon see swarms of bees as part of airport security.

The bees are trained by being exposed to an odor (such as TNT), then rewarded with a sugary liquid. In AOL News, Theunis Bates quotes researcher Mathilde Briens as saying, "The bees associate the smell with food. So next time they sniff this particular smell, they will stick their tongues out because they expect food." The only problem: Who is going to look carefully enough to see if the bees have their tongues out?

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