Three researchers from the Harvard University and the MIT have recently found that bumblebees adapt their flight to their pollen loads. The small insects, whose flying abilities have never been questioned, carefully plan their flight strategy long before they begin pollinating flowers to avoid bad weather conditions.
Andrew Mountcastle, Stacey Combes and Sridhar Ravi have started their recent research from the previous studies that have been made. They have, thus, found out that scientists have been interested in determining the load that bees can carry without their lives being threatened in any way, but no experiment has been conducted in relation to bees’ flight adaptability.
For that matter, the three researchers have observed the wild insects as they pollinated flowers during a given period of time. At the end of the observation, they have concluded that bees prefer pollen or nectar, depending on weather conditions and other factors.
Bumblebees carry pollen on their legs and nectar on their body, which is why the transportation of the load is sometimes cumbersome. The insects can only carry a pollen load that is half the weight of their body, whereas the nectar cargo can be as heavy as their overall body weight.
Another interesting observation that scientists have made during the experiment was the fact that bees prefer pollen loads when the weather is windy. On the other hand, the percentage of nectar loads was much bigger during normal days, determining scientists to further investigate these behavioral changes.
The second phase he experiment saw the replication of the pollination process within an artificially-recreated environment. Researcherof ts have built a wind tunnel with flowers where conditions were regularly changed to see if bees adapt their flight techniques to different situations.
Tests have revealed, that bees prefer pollen loads when the wind is stronger because they offer them stability, especially when they have to make sudden turns. On the other hand, nectar loads made the bees much faster during calm weather conditions.
Researchers will continue to study this aspect as they believe it could turn our relevant for the understanding of colony fitness. Bumblebees’ study is important nowadays as researchers want to prevent a collapse between bumblebee and honeybee populations.
The findings of the recent research have been published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
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