bees, honey and other sticky subjects

Thursday, October 04, 2007

Bees, pollen and electricity

Bees mighn't like power lines, but they seem to generate a lot of electricity themselves. I can't say that I understand all of the abstract below (from researchers at the University of Cambridge and Tel Aviv), but as I understand it pollen grains may be able to jump significant distances to ensure that they land on stigma and not some other part of the flower because of the electrostatic charges of honeybees. Shocking! (Thanks Slavik.)

The measurements of Yes'kov & Sapozhnikov (1976) suggest that electrostatic potentials on foraging honeybees can reach hundreds of volts. Pollen grains of oilseed rape, Brassica napus L., subjected experimentally to potentials of this order, jumped a distance that increased approximately as the square of the voltage, between two pin electrodes on which, in some experiments, were impaled an anther or stigma of oilseed rape or a freshly-killed honeybee. Most floral surfaces were insulated, but there was a low-impedance path to earth via the stigma, and the electrostatic field due to an approaching charged bee must therefore concentrate there. Thus, if electrostatic potentials of this magnitude occur in nature they may increase the chance that pollen from bees will reach the stigma rather than other floral surfaces, as well as enabling pollen to jump from anther to bee and from bee to stigma across an air gap of the order of 0.5 mm.

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