If There Isn’t Enough Pollen, Bees Help Speed The Flowering Up By Piercing The Leaves Of The Plants
Research has shown that when there’s too little pollen for the bees, they damage the leaves of the plant in a certain way that enables the plant to flower faster.
Because of all the climate changes that we’re experiencing, in some parts around the world, the temperatures of spring are more likely to those of early summer so a lot of plants bloom much earlier than they usually do.
This is only one of many season anomalies that happen more and more frequently because of climate change, and it affects negatively on the ways that animals and plants coexist.
Recent research has shown that bumblebees might have found a solution to these new challenges that climate change has brought. Using their elongated mouth part, bumblebee workers pierce holes in the leaves of the plants that do not have flowers yet and thus resulting in the plant blooming earlier than other plants that haven’t been treated this way by the bumblebees.
Some science professors have agreed that there has been researched that has shown how different types of stress can force the plant to bloom, but until now bumblebees have never been known to cause that stress in plants intentionally.
The bumblebee uses its tongue to pinch a hole in the leaf.
More pollen is needed
This behavior of the pollinators was discovered unintentionally during different experiments.
The observations led to devising more new experiments – indoor ones in the laboratory, and outdoor ones in more natural environments.
According to their lab experiments, bees damage the leaves according to the pollen they need. If they can’t obtain any pollen or they have only small amounts, then they will damage the leaves a lot more often.
Further testing showed that tomato plants that have been damaged by the pollinating bees bloomed about 30 days sooner than those that weren’t, and mustard plants that were damaged by the bees bloomed about two weeks faster. The only thing that is not yet researched that well is how the development stage of the plant affects blooming times.
Another thing they did was they tried to manually imitate the damage that bees do to the plants, but while it showed some results, they weren’t nearly as potent as they are when the bees do the pinching. Because of this, the researchers are now exploring if some chemical component from the bees’ mouths is playing a role in the process as well.
Their outdoor experiments showed similar results
The researchers were observing this behavior of the pollinators in a more natural environment and Harriet Lambert, a doctoral student-led an additional research under similar settings, on the rooftops of 2 buildings in Zurich.
All of the experiments and observations showed very similar results – the less pollen is available for the bumblebees, the more they damage the leaves of plants that haven’t bloomed, but when there were enough flowers and pollen for the bees, their damaging behavior was reduced significantly.
Initially, the experiments were done with captive-bred bumble bees but at least two other species of wild bumblebees showed the same behavior. Honey bees though didn’t show signs of damaging behavior, they simply ignored the plants that haven’t blossomed yet. But luckily, the bumblebees’ solution is helpful and beneficial for all pollinators.
Global warming and many other factors make it increasingly difficult for insects and plants to stay in sync. The bond between insects and plants that have existed for millennia is now being tested, and although bumblebees have found a solution, more time and research is needed to know if it is enough to overcome the hurdles of the climate changes.