Daily Briefing: Bees Bite Plants to Make Them Flower
Published:12 Jun.2020    Source:Nature
Bumble bee (Bombus terrestris) worker damages a plant leaf. Bee-inflicted leaf damage leads to accelerated flowering and might have implications for the phenological synchrony of plants and pollinators. Hannier Pulido, De Moraes and Mescher Laboratories.


When pollen is scarce, bumblebees have their way of extorting more from plants. The insects bite into leaves with their mandibles and proboscises to induce flowering up to one month earlier than normal. Chemical ecologists spotted the unusual behaviour in Bombus terrestris during an unrelated laboratory experiment. Artificial cuts were not as effective, suggesting that some chemicals in the insects’ saliva could play a part. “This is one of those really rare studies that observes a natural phenomenon that hadn’t been documented before,” says ecologist John Mola.