Flowers Communicate Trough Electricity

Flowers are a huge part of our society. Around the world, at any one time, there are thousands of bouquets being joyfully thrown into the crowd at weddings or condemned boyfriends using a beautiful bunch as a peace offering for their much maligned loved one.

However, while we use them as gifts, decoration and a much needed source of Oxygen, you may be surprised to discover that flowers are a lot more high tech than you may think and in fact, have been proven to communicate with the world around them, through electricity.

Yes flowers are a silent creature, simply using their vibrant colours, unique shapes and subtle fragrances to attract pollinators but rather recently there have been studies published that go to prove that electricity manipulation is also part of their skill set. This newly discovered skill is used to communicate with Bumble Bees and possible, perhaps one day, us humans.

Co-author Daniel Robert, a professor in the University of Bristol’s School of Biological Sciences, was hugely excited by this discovery.

“We just now have discovered that electrical potentials, an unavoidable by-product of flying in air for bumblebees and being grounded for the flower, is being exploited to benefit both parties, it’s another example of the beauty of evolution,”

‘So whats the big idea?’ I hear you cry. Well in simple terms, as bees fly around they produce a positive electrical charge which is made up of loads of different tiny particles like dust and smaller charged molecules, which then create friction, leaving said bees positively charged.

On the opposite end of the spectrum, we have Flowers which are natural, albeit extremely slow, conductors of electricity which leads them to possess a negative charge.

Ok, so while all this is great to know, it doesn’t quite explain why and how this turns into communication with humans, least of all bumble bees. Well, Robert and his team placed petunia flowers in an area with free-flying foraging bees. Researchers then spent time studying how the flowers and bees interacting with each other changed the electric fields as well as the bees behaviours.

The team discovered that when a bee lands on a flower, this generates a whole new electric field, a force, almost like a spark being created the moment both life forms make contact.

Bees can sense this ‘spark’ which, as a result, vastly improves the bees memory of rewards the flower may offer, such as pollen and nectar, affecting foraging later on. Essentially this means that flowers are able to tell bees some really specific facts such as, how much pollen they have, when they were last visited by another bee and, if their supply is run dry, when they will be ready for harvesting again.

Robert believes that this interaction between bees and flowers is one of a dynamic nature, driven by the flowers themselves.

“Bees have what has been observed to be flower constancy, (meaning that) once they forage, they tend to keep going to one type of flower, and they keep going until they feel that the rewards are not worth it anymore, we think that flowers have their say in that strategy, and inform the bees that the supply will be back soon,”

This process of communication is a culmination of all the flowers tools, so much so that the electrical charge created boasts the flowers skill set altogether, colour, for example, becomes much more vibrant (at least to the bees).

“We have demonstrated that when there is an electric field present, even a mild one, bees can learn the difference between two colours faster. So, like in a commercial advertisement, the main and obvious message can be supported by co-lateral cues that do not necessarily convey information about the product, but are easily associated with it.”

The possibility that flowers themselves can not only hold an electric charge but use this to their advantage is a bold new discovery, going to prove that the beautiful scenery around you does in fact hold a lot more intelligence than often given credit for.

Obviously more research is needed on this newly discovered phenomenon, but the electrical changes that occur between flower and bee, even happen when we ourselves interact with flowers. Unfortunately however, it seems as if we are still a long way off from knowing exactly what this means for the relationship between man and flower.

I suppose Robert said it best, summing up the discovery with a rather honest statement

“When you bend over to sniff a flower, it will change (the flower’s electrical) potential. What the flower makes of that, I would not know… But I do hope very much that someone will take this up and look into it.”

Flowers Communicate Trough Electricity was last modified: June 10th, 2014 by Todd

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