AAAS: Bumble bees damage plant leaves and accelerate flower production when pollen is scarce

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Bumble bee gardeners

Bumble bees rely heavily on pollen resources for essential nutrients as they build their summer colonies. Therefore, we might expect that annual differences in the availability of these resources must simply be tolerated, but Pashalidou et al. made observations suggesting that bees may have strategies to cope with irregular seasonal flowering (see the Perspective by Chittka). When faced with a shortage of pollen, bumble bees actively damaged plant leaves in a characteristic way, and this behavior resulted in earlier flowering by as much as 30 days. Experimenters were not able to fully replicate the results with their own damage, suggesting that there is a distinct method that the bees use to stimulate earlier flowering.

 

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