Caption: Bumblebee in the striped flower of a snapdragon (Antirrhinum majus). Credit: John Innes Center
Read aloud If you like bumblebees, you should plant red and striped flowers: British researchers have discovered that the chubby brambles prefer red and striped flowers for nectar hunting. The stripes along the veins of the flowers represented a kind of runway for the bumblebees and would help them with orientation, the researchers explain the phenomenon. Gardeners could support the bumblebee populations by choosing plants with the preferred blooms: The furry insects are not only important pollinators in the home garden, but also play an important role in agriculture in this regard. "Stripes that run along the veins of flowers are one of the most prevalent color patterns in flowers. Therefore, we have assumed that the plants thereby gain an advantage in pollination, "explains the biologist Cathie Martin from the John Innes Center in Norwich, the background of the study. To test their thesis, the researchers observed the behavior of bumblebees foraging in a field planted with various varieties of snapdragons (Antirrhinum majus). Bumblebees are among the main pollinators of this flowering plant. Some snapdragons had monochrome flowers, the colors of which varied between white, pink and red, while the flowers of other snapdragons were striped.

The scientists then compared how often the bumblebees infested the plants with the different flower stains, and recorded the number of flowers visited per plant. Their results show that bumblebees look for red and striped flowers far more frequently than white or pink ones. In addition, more flowers per plant are flown here.

"The strips provide guidance for the pollinators and guide them to the central landing and entrance to the flower where nectar and pollen are found, " explains Martin. The striped flowers were early in the history of the snapdragon and would have been maintained by all stages of development of this plant. Pollinating insects such as the bumblebee would notice flower signals, the researchers continue, such as the flower shape, the color, the pattern or the fragrance. The bumblebees would come back again and again to flowers, where they would have previously found food. Even relatively simple changes in the flower signals could therefore have a major impact on which pollinators and how often the flower is visited.

Yongjin Shang (John Innes Center, Norwich) et al.: New Phytologist, Vol. 188, Issue 3, Online Advance Release, 12.10.2010 dapd / Meike Simann ad


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