Can bumblebees distinguish flower shapes?

Primula sieboldii

From Annals of Botany:

Ability of Bumblebees to Discriminate Differences in the Shape of Artificial Flowers of Primula sieboldii (Primulaceae)

Yosuke Yoshioka, Kazuharu Ohashi, Akihiro Konuma, Hiroyoshi Iwata, Ryo Ohsawa and Seishi Ninomiya …

Background and Aims: Flower shapes are important visual cues for pollinators.

However, the ability of pollinators to discriminate between flower shapes under natural conditions is poorly understood.

This study focused on the diversity of flower shape in Primula sieboldii and investigated the ability of bumblebees to discriminate between flowers by combining computer graphics with a traditional behavioural experiment.

The bumblebee species in this experiment was Bombus ignitus from East Asia.

This video from Japan says about itself:

A female humblebee (Bombus ignitus, family Apidae) sucking nectar from a flower of thistle (Cirsium nipponicum, family Asteraceae). Her hindlegs were infested with mites. Was she drunk or weak due to the mites?

Colour in flowers seems to be more important for bumblebees than shape.

Bombus terrestris and purple: here.

4 thoughts on “Can bumblebees distinguish flower shapes?

  1. Flowers disappear alongside wild bees – study

    July 21 2006 at 02:16AM

    Washington – Wild bees and the flowers they pollinate are disappearing together in Britain and The Netherlands, researchers reported on Thursday.

    It is not clear which started to disappear first, the bees or the flowers, but the trend could affect both crops and wild species, the researchers report in Friday’s issue of the journal Science.

    “We were shocked by decline in plants as well as bees. If this pattern is replicated elsewhere, the ‘pollinator services’ we take for granted could be at risk,” Dr Koos Biesmeijer of the University of Leeds in Britain said in a statement.

    “And with it the future for the plants we enjoy in our countryside.”

    Biesmeijer and colleagues looked at species surveys from hundreds of sites and found that bee diversity has fallen in 80 percent of them since 1980. They said many bee species are declining or have become extinct in Britain.

    The number of different species of pollination-dependent wildflowers has declined by 70 percent.

    “In Britain, pollinator species that were relatively rare in the past have tended to become rarer still, while the commoner species have become even more plentiful. Even in insects, the rich get richer and the poor get poorer,” said Stuart Roberts of the University of Reading, who worked on the study.

    “We looked at plant changes as an afterthought, and were surprised to see how strong the trends were,” added Bill Kunin of the University of Leeds. “When we contacted our Dutch colleagues, we found out that they had begun spotting similar shifts in their wildflowers as well.”

    Disappearing act: Wild bees and the flowers they pollinate are disappearing together in Britain and Holland – and researchers are concerned that the trend could affect both crops and wild species. Photo: AP


    Bees turn out to be happy city slickers

    Paris – Bees reared in the town are healthier and produce more honey than their counterparts in the country, according to the surprise findings of a study by the Union of French Apiarists (UNAF) which was released Tuesday.

    A higher ambient temperature and diverse urban plant life mean that city bees enjoy a longer period of pollination from a wider variety of flowers, while escaping the pesticides and other crop treatments that have badly hit honey production in rural areas.

    Car fumes do not seem to affect them.

    Hives placed on the roof of a theatre in the western city of Nantes easily outproduced country hives 30km away, while the mortality rate among the city bees was six percent compared to 33 percent for their rural cousins, UNAF reported.

    “Bees are equipped with filters that help them cope with urban pollution, but they are helpless against neurotoxins,” said Loic Leray, who has shifted most of his honey production to a public park in Nantes.

    “In 25 years nothing has changed in the behaviour of my urban bees. They produce between 25kg and 35kg of honey per hive and their winter death-rate is low,” he said.

    “But in the country, the honey steadily dried up as the hives were depopulated. And then I would find great carpets of sick bees, all trembling,” he said.

    Jean Paucton, who keeps bees in the Parc de la Villette in Paris as well as in the rural Creuse province of central France, said his town bees produce on average 100kg of honey per hive as opposed to 20kg to 25kg in the country.

    “In town the bees go out more,” he said.

    Claiming some 22 000 members, UNAF has been campaigning for years against certain pesticides which it says are destroying the bee-keeping industry. Two chemicals – Gaucho and Regent – have been banned, but UNAF says their effects are still being felt in the countryside.

    “These molecules are neurotoxins which disorientate the bee and make it impossible for it to find the hive again. Normally we can expect to lose say five percent of bees, but in some regions we have been losing up to 45 percent,” said UNAF president Henri Clement.

    Hoping to promote urban bee-keeping, UNAF this week launched a campaign to encourage local authorities, businesses and individuals to set up hives in parks, gardens, balconies and roofs.

    Paris’s best-known apiary is on the roof of the ornate Opera Garnier, which produces an average of 100kg of “Opera Honey” every year.


  2. Diversity keeps bees’ knees cool.
    June 24 2004 at 09:12AM

    Washington – Here’s the buzz: Honeybees may all look alike, but it’s their diversity that helps make them more efficient as a group.

    Bees like to keep the temperature in their nests at a warmish 32 to 36°C and do so by clustering together to add heat or by fanning their wings to cool things off.

    Now, scientists in Australia have found that nests that include bees from several different fathers – resulting in genetic diversity – make this process smoother and more efficient.
    Bees from different fathers tended to start fanning at different temperatures
    The discovery by Julia C Jones and colleagues at the University of Sydney is reported in Thursday’s issue of the journal Science.

    The researchers studied normal beehives in which the queen is fertilised by several males and compared them with other hives where they used artificial insemination to make sure only one male mated with the queen.

    As it turned out, bees from different fathers tended to start fanning at different temperatures.

    That means that in the normal hives, as the temperature rose, more and more bees would stop other jobs and begin fanning to cool things down. Conversely, as temperatures declined, some would stop fanning and go back to other jobs while others kept fanning until it got cooler. The result was a relatively even temperature, on average.

    But in one-father hives, most workers tended to start and stop fanning at the same time, resulting in a roller-coaster temperature compared with the normal hives.

    Multiple mating of the female honeybee probably developed for other reasons, the researchers say, but as a secondary result it leads to more efficient task allocation in cooling and warming the hive, allowing workers to respond to change without overreacting.

    On the Internet:




  3. Beehives found in ruins of ancient city.

    September 05 2007 at 02:54AM

    By Matti Friedman

    Jerusalem – Archaeologists digging in northern Israel have discovered evidence of a 3 000-year-old beekeeping industry, including remnants of ancient honeycombs, bees’ wax and what they believe are the oldest intact beehives ever found.

    The findings in the ruins of the city of Rehov include 30 intact hives dating to around 900 BC, archaeologist Amihai Mazar of Jerusalem’s Hebrew University told The Associated Press. He sad it offers unique evidence that an advanced honey industry existed in the Holy Land at the time of the Bible.

    Beekeeping was widely practised in the ancient world, where honey was used for medicinal and religious purposes as well as for food, and bees’ wax was used to make molds for metal and to create surfaces to write on. While portrayals of bees and beekeeping are known in ancient artwork, nothing similar to the Rehov hives has ever been found before, Mazar said.

    The beehives, made of straw and unbaked clay, have a hole at one end to allow the bees in and out and a lid on the other end to allow beekeepers access to the honeycombs inside. They were found in orderly rows, three high, in a room that could have accommodated around 100 hives, Mazar said.

    The Bible repeatedly refers to Israel as a “land of milk and honey”, but that’s believed to refer to honey made from dates and figs – there is no mention of honeybee cultivation. But the new find shows that the Holy Land was home to a highly developed beekeeping industry nearly 3 000 years ago.

    “You can tell that this was an organised industry, part of an organised economy, in an ultra-organised city,” Mazar said.

    At the time the beehives were in use, Mazar believes Rehov had around 2 000 residents – a mix of Israelites, Canaanites and others.

    Ezra Marcus, an expert on the ancient Mediterranean world at Haifa University, said the finding was a unique glimpse into ancient beekeeping. Marcus was not involved in the Rehov excavation.

    “We have seen depictions of beekeeping in texts and ancient art from the Near East, but this is the first time we’ve been able to actually feel and see the industry,” Marcus said.

    The finding is especially unique, Marcus said, because of its location in the middle of a thriving city – a strange place for thousands of bees.

    This might have been because the city’s ruler wanted the industry under his control, Marcus said, or because the beekeeping industry was linked to residents’ religious practices, as might be indicated by an altar decorated with fertility figurines that archaeologists found alongside the hives. – Sapa-AP


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.