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Noon Edition

The Superior Quality Of Hot Nectar

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D:        (SIPPING): Mmm . . . nothing hits the spot on a cold day like a hot cup of cocoa.

Y:        Funny you should mention it. A study out of the University of London shows that we're not the only species that likes a hot drink. In fact, bumblebees prefer warm nectar to cool.

D:        Nectar? You mean the stuff bees get out of flowers?

Y:        Yes. Researchers used artificial flowers whose temperature and color they could control. They made the darker blooms warmer and then waited to see which attracted the most bumblebees. Guess what?

D:        The bees went warm?

Y:        The bees went warm. Eventually the bees learned to associate the color with the warmth, and began heading for the darker flowers first. Then the researchers switched the visual cue, making the lighter-colored flowers the warm ones. After a little buzzing around, the bees went for the warmer flowers again. It seems bees are on the lookout for hot nectar.

D:        That's a neat experiment. But why?

Y:        For the same reason you like a hot cup of cocoa on a cold day. You can warm yourself up by expending energy, or you can save that energy by letting the warm cocoa do the work for you. You are drinking it for the caloric energy, but the heat energy is an added bonus.

D:        Makes sense! Mmm. (SIPPING).

Bee eating nectar from flower.

Nectar is the substance that bees extract from flowers. New research shows that bees prefer it warm. (John Severns, Wikimedia Commons)

In the midst of winter, one of the best ways to combat the effects of cold weather is a hot beverage. A new study out of the University of London shows that we're not the only species that likes a hot drink. In fact, bumblebees prefer warm to cool. 

Nectar is the substance that bees extract from flowers. Researchers used artifical flowers whose temperatures and color they could control. They made the darker blooms warmer and then waited to see which attracted the most bumblebees.

The flowers with the warm nectar were the winners. Eventually the bees learned to associate the color with the warmth, and began heading for the darker flowers first. Then the researchers switched the visual cue, making the lighter-colored flowers the warm ones.

After a little buzzing around, the bees went for the warmer flowers again. It seems bees are on the lookout for hot nectar.

Bees prefer nectar for the same reason that humans like a hot cup of cocoa on a cold day. You can warm yourself up by expending energy, or you can save that energy by letting the warm cocoa do the work for you. You are drinking it for the caloric energy, but the heat energy is an added bonus.

 

 

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