March 6, 2021

Bumblebees Can Sense Electric Fields Using Hairs

twitterredditpinterestlinkedintumblrmailby feather

“There is, all the time, a background electric field in the atmosphere,” Sutton explained to NPR. “Any plant that’s connected to the ground will generate its own electric field just by interactions with the atmosphere.”

To see if the hairs were connected to the bees’ ability to read this electric field, Sutton’s team measured both the movement of hairs using tiny lasers and the electrical activity at the bottom of hair cells using a tiny electrode. They found that the hairs move toward or away from electrical currents created by flowers, similar to how human hairs are attracted to static electricity.