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Bees discover nectar through temperature-sensing abilities

According to American scientists, honeybees have the capacity to locate nectar in flowers by sensing the temperature of their food.

world Updated: Nov 18, 2009 14:27 IST

According to American scientists, honeybees have the capacity to locate nectar in flowers by sensing the temperature of their food.

Biologists at UC San Diego, has found that honeybees can discriminate between food at different temperatures, an ability that may assist bees in locating the warm, sugar-rich nectar or high-protein pollen produced by many flowers.

While other researchers had previously found hints that bees might have the ability to do this, the UCSD biologists provide the first detailed experimental evidence, Journal of Experimental Biology reported.

"We show that honeybees have the ability to associate temperature differences with food. This information may help guide bees looking for food by allowing them to distinguish which bees are returning to the hive with the highest quality of food," said lead author James Nieh.

He said, "Body temperature is seen in terms of its net caloric benefit to the other foragers. The warmest forager in the nest is the one most likely to be visiting of the sweetest, highest quality food."

Training bees to stick out their tongues in return for a sugary reward when the team touched a warm surface to a bee's antenna, the researchers found that bees could learn to identify warmth with food.

Next, they tested whether the bees could learn to associate temperature differences with a food reward and discovered that this was also the case.