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True Nature Filter


Bees in C

We all have our own ways of trying to get what we want, and for a bumble bee that means humming in the key of “C” to a pollen-bearing flower.

Wait, what?

That’s right. Scientists are learning more about bees all the time, and one fascinating discovery is that bumble bees vibrate their bodies to loosen pollen from the anthers of a flower. This process is called “buzz pollination.” One graduate student researcher from Harvard observed Australian bumble bees banging their heads against flowers at an incredible 350 times per second to shake the pollen loose.

Other sources describe a different method of pollen persuasion by bumble bees: the act of vibrating the wings and thorax. While the head-banger Harvard study seems to suggest an alternative explanation to the wing-thorax vibration tactic, I would offer the tried-and-true scientist caution here, which is that more tests need to take place across various species of bumble bees before researchers have a clearer understanding of what really goes on in those intimate moments between bee and flower.

As for the musicality of the interaction, the “key of C” anecdote is a recurring one. The next time you’re out in your garden or at the park, take your guitar (or harmonica, violin, accordion, whatever) with you and play along with the bumble bees. If anyone asks you what you’re doing, you can just tell them you’re tuning into the bees.

Lucia Hadella