The Truth About Bees And Their Love For Sweets

By Tal Hefer and Tzachi Zamir April 26, 2011 Comments

As children, we read stories about bees which taught us to believe that the stingy creatures are only attracted to the sweet nectar of flowers. It turns out that some types of bees just prefer good old plain fruits and vegetables.

This makes bees major players in food production and agriculture.  Aside from producing honey, bees help flowers and plants reproduce when they pollinate. This basically means that as plants cannot move or mate, bees do the reproduction work for them.

But in order to benefit from bees’ pollination, farmers need to know which types of bees are attracted to their crops.

To utilize this pollination process in farming fruits and vegetables, Israeli Professor Sharon Shafir, director of the entomology department at the B.Triwaks Bee Research Center, has been measuring the tendency of bees from different hives to approach different plants. “Knowing the bees’ preferences helps us direct them to the right crop and thus use them to expand that specific crops’ reproduction,” Shafir told NoCamels.

For the researchers to know what bees like best, there is a system which checks the bees’ tendency to approach specific flowers, called “The Proboscis Extinction Response System.” The system is being used for research at the Robert H. Smith Faculty of Agriculture, Food and Environment of The Hebrew University in Israel, headed by Professor Shafir and experienced bee keeper Haim Kalev.

The bees are connected to the measuring system in the least invasive way. The system is then able to measure the bees’ reaction to the smell of a crop, for example grapes, or avocado. The researchers use the positive response method to verify which types of bees enjoyed which plants best. “Right after they’ve smelled a plant, we give the bees a sugar solution. If the bees take their proboscis (the bee’s tongue) out, we can conclude that they are attracted to the avocados’ smell, for example and that they want to consume it,” Kalev explained.

Rather than utilizing a tedious manual process to measure the bees’ activity, Shafir created an online measuring system. “The system lets us know how much sugar solution the bee had, how much time it took to consume it, making the process much faster and more efficient,” kalev told NoCamels.

“This system can significantly increase agricultural output,” Kalev added. “By finding a hive which is a attracted to a specific flower or plant, we will be able to insert that hive in the farmland to enhance crop production.”

Photo By Jorge Laranjo

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