Flowers and Bees Communicate Using Electric Fields

February 25, 2013, By Sanjeev Ramachandran

If you think flowers use more than just color, scent and shape to attract pollinating bees, then British researchers will say you are wrong. In fact, they have found out that flowers use electrical fields to attract bees to enable pollination.

Scientists at the University of Bristol have found out that pollinators such as bumblebees are able to find and distinguish electric signals sent out by flowers.

According to researcher Daniel Robert, flowers have the equivalent of a neon sign, in this case patterns of electrical signals that can communicate information to the insect pollinator. These electrical signals can work in tandem with the flower’s other attractive signals like color and shape and enhance floral advertising power.


Plants are usually charged negatively and emit weak electric fields, while bees acquire a positive charge as they fly through the air. When a charged bee approaches a charged flower a small electric force builds up that can potentially transmit information.

But it is still unknown how the bees detect the electric fields, although it may be that hairy bumblebees bristle up under the electrostatic force, just like one’s hair in front of an old television screen.

He also quoted that the co-evolution between flowers and bees has a long and beneficial history and so perhaps it’s not entirely surprising that we are still discovering today how remarkably sophisticated their communication is.

This research when completed can aid researchers in enhancing desirable pollination and maintain the ecosystem that is being faced with many threats like global warming, air pollution and the like.

Editor’s Comment: After they figure out this one, maybe the scientists can figure out how to use NFC in smartphones to tell wasps and bees to stay away from our picnics!

© 2008-2012 - All rights reserved | Privacy Policy