Bumble bees bite plants to make them flower early, surprising scientists

Image of buff-tailed bumble bee flying among thistle.

(National Geographic) Bumble bees aren’t merely bumbling around our gardens. They’re actively assessing the plants, determining which flowers have the most nectar and pollen, and leaving behind scent marks that tell them which blooms they’ve already visited. Now, a new study reveals that bumble bees force plants to flower by making tiny incisions in their leaves – a discovery that has stunned bee scientists.

Study reveals important flowering plants for city-dwelling honey bees

Image of red maple buds.

(Penn State) Trees, shrubs and woody vines are among the top food sources for honey bees in urban environments, according to an international team of researchers. By using honey bees housed in rooftop apiaries in Philadelphia, the researchers identified the plant species from which the honey bees collected most of their food, and tracked how these food resources changed from spring to fall.

Dramatic loss of food plants for insects in Zurich

Image of bumble bee on woody burdock.

(EurekAlert/University of Bonn) A team of German and Swiss researchers have demonstrated that the diversity of food plants for insects in Zurich has dramatically decreased over the past 100 years. Overall, all plant communities have become much more monotonous, with just a few dominant common species. This means that bees, flies and butterflies are increasingly deprived of their food base. 250 volunteers helped map the flora and process historical records.

How quickly do flower strips in cities help the local bees?

Image of roadside flowers.

(ScienceDaily/Pensoft Publishers) Many cities are introducing green areas to protect their fauna. Among such measures are flower strips, which provide support to flower-visiting insects. According to the first quantitative assessment of the speed and distance over which urban flower strips attract wild bees, scientists from the University of Munich found that one-year-old flower strips attracted a third of the 232 species recorded from Munich since 1997.