Electric Blooms

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Electric blooms communicate with bumblebees, according to articles in BBC Nature News, ScienceNOW and ScienceDaily 21 February 2013, and ABC News in Science 22 February 2013. Plants use colourful and fragrant flowers to indicate to bees they have pollen and nectar. Scientists have now found another means for flowers and bees to communicate – by electric fields. Plants carry a small negative charge, and bumblebees take on a small positive charge as they fly. When a bee lands on a flower this charge difference helps transfer the pollen. It also means that for a brief time after a bee has visited a flower and collected nectar and pollen the flower’s electric field is changed.

A group of scientists at University of Bristol, UK tested bumblebees to see if they could detect changes in electric fields using artificial flowers where researchers deliberately manipulated the electric fields. They found bees could recognise differences in electric fields between charged and uncharged flowers, so they suggest that detection of electric fields enables bees to quickly know which flowers have recently been visited by other bees, and therefore will not have as much nectar and pollen. Therefore, bees do not waste energy, but are not deterred from visiting other flowers of the same species, colour and fragrance, that still have plenty of pollen and nectar

Daniel Robert, a professor in the University of Bristol's School of Biological Sciences, explained: “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”. He went on to say: “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”.

He also explained: “The last thing a flower wants is to attract a bee and then fail to provide nectar: a lesson in honest advertising since bees are good learners and would soon lose interest in such an unrewarding flower. The co-evolution between flowers and bees has a long and beneficial history, so perhaps it's not entirely surprising that we are still discovering today how remarkably sophisticated their communication is”.

According to Robert this “dynamic interaction” is “another example of the beauty of evolution”.

Dominic Clarke, who designed the artificial charged flowers in the laboratory, commented to BBC Nature: “Animals are just constantly surprising us as to how good their senses are. More and more we’re starting to see that nature’s senses are almost as good as they could possibly be”.

ABC, BBC, ScienceDaily

Editorial Comment: Can’t help it can they … “nature's senses are as good as they can bee, eh?” And co-evolution is responsible! What an amalgam of meaningless words strung together to hide ignorance. It is true that when a bee lands on a flower, the negative charge in plants, the positive charge on bees, and changing electric field are natural phenomena, which can be explained by the laws of physics. However, that does not actually explain how bees can make use of it. To do that, the bee requires some means of sensing the change, the inbuilt brain circuitry to interpret it, plus an inbuilt program to act on it, none of which are explained by laws of physics and chemistry.

The idea that “co-evolution” can produce such sophisticated communication is pure wishful thinking on behalf of those who believe in naturalistic, chance random evolution, as is the concept that some god named “nature” made the bees’ senses “almost as good as they could possibly be”. This observed “dynamic interaction” works in the same way as modern computer sensors which have dynamic interaction programs built into them – they are created with the right circuitry and response programs. In the case of bees, God the Creator made it Bee … and it is and was very good. (Ref. pollinators, botany, biophysics)

Evidence News 24 July 2013

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