Pollen Party

Here’s a pollen puzzle: how do bees get more buck for the bang?

This is Sandra Tsing Loh with the Loh Down on Science.

Consider bees known as “Buzz pollinators.” They favor plants with very sticky pollen. With their mouths and legs, they grab onto the plant’s anthers – the flower parts that hold pollen. Then, without actually moving their wings, the bees use their flight muscles to vibrate their entire bodies while hanging on for dear life. Even reluctant pollen gets shaken loose.

Researchers in Australia were curious about two buzz pollinators: The bumblebee and the blue-banded bee. Bumblebees tend to visit each flower longer than blue-banded bees. The scientists wondered why.

So they recorded high-speed video of both bees visiting tomato plant flowers. Then they reviewed the recordings in slow-motion, and discovered something completely new!

The blue-banded bee was releasing pollen by banging its head against the anthers! Up to 350 times per second! Compared to bumbles, the banded bee gets more pollen per flower, faster, and moves on.

Where? To the headbangers ball of course! The mosh pit is un-BEE-lievable! Sorry.