Electric Honey

Spring will soon be here. That means that soon the flowers will bloom in all their glorious colors and fragrances. We are drawn to flowers because they are so beautiful and aromatic. So are bees.

Bees are attracted to flowers for a multitude of reasons. The bright colors are designed to draw bees to flowers. So are shapes of both the flower and the petals. The flowers smell good to make bees notice them.

Other factors that bring bees to flowers are patterns in the ultraviolet spectrum, shapes of petals, texture of petals, and petal temperature. All of these stimuli make the bees remember certain flowers. Then the hunt for flowers is more efficient.

Flowers attract bees for a purpose. Bees help to pollinate the flowers which assists in the making of new flowers. In turn the the flowers provide nectar that is used to make honey.

As the busy little worker bees are buzzing about they build up a static electrical charge. When they land on the flowers the positively charged bees pick up negatively charged pollen. Then they move on to another flower and deposit pollen. They carry the nectar they have collected back to the hive to make food for the queen and her young. We reap the benefits because we get honey from this process.

The presence of the static electricity made scientists wonder... what if the flowers also have an electrical attractant. To test this theory researchers set up a garden of of fake flowers. The flowers were simple. A stem holding a small dish. Dishes were filled with either sugar water or quinine which is bitter to bees.

When the bees started to fly around the false flower garden they flew randomly and seemed to land on the quinine dishes and sweet dishes equally. Then a small electrical charge was added to the sweet flowers. The bees chose the charged flowers. When the electrical charge was removed the bees went back to random foraging.

Real plants were then measured for electrical charges. It turns out that when a bee gets close enough the negative charge of the plant increases. The plant stays charged as long as the bee is there and for about a minute and a half after it leaves. That keeps other bees from landing on a flower that another bee is using.

So honey is not really electric. It is the electrical attraction of the flowers to the bees that provides the ingredients to make honey.

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