Flower cells have sticky coating for bees

Researchers found that the surface of petals are similar to Velcro, which is useful for bees, not letting go with the wind...

For a long time, scientists have known that the petals of most flowering plants (angiosperms) have cone-shaped cells that are not found anywhere else in the plant.

Researchers now report that this miniature scenery serves like a surface of Velcro, to which pollinating bees adhere. This feature is particularly useful when the wind starts blowing hard.

"The bee has sharp claws on its feet and can settle in the spaces between cells," said Beverley Glover, botanist, University of Cambridge, England, and author of the new study, published in the journal Functional Ecology.

They put the bees in cages and studied their behavior in relation to petunias that have cone cells and compared them with the mutant petunias, whose cells are flatter.

At first, the bees showed only a slight preference for flowers with conical cells.

"Then we remember that flowers are on stalks and that the wind swings them," Glover said.

Thus, to simulate the wind effect, the researchers placed the flowers on a vibrating platform, and the more it vibrated, the  more bees seemed to prefer the petunias with cone cells.

Approximately 20 percent of angiosperms do not have cone cells at all, and soon Glover plans to study the relationship between these flowers, bees and other insects.

Another unanswered question: will the pollinators that are suspended in the air as the hummingbird and moth, have similar preferences?

Translated from the Portuguese version by:

Lisa Karpova

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Author`s name Timothy Bancroft-Hinchey