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Bumblebees can detect floral humidity

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Floral humidity, a region of elevated humidity in the headspace of the flower, occurs in many plant species and may add to their multimodal floral displays. So far, the ability to detect and respond to floral humidity cues has been only established for hawkmoths when they locate and extract nectar while hovering in front of some moth-pollinated flowers. To test whether floral humidity can be used by other more widespread generalist pollinators, we designed artificial flowers that presented biologically relevant levels of humidity similar to those shown by flowering plants. Bumblebees showed a spontaneous preference for flowers that produced higher floral humidity. Furthermore, learning experiments showed that bumblebees are able to use differences in floral humidity to distinguish between rewarding and non-rewarding flowers. Our results indicate that bumblebees are sensitive to different levels of floral humidity. In this way floral humidity can add to the information provided by flowers and could impact pollinator behaviour more significantly than previously thought.




Harrap, M. J. M., de Ibarra, N. H., Knowles, H. D., Whitney, H. M., & Rands, S. A. (2021). Bumblebees can detect floral humidity. Journal of Experimental Biology, 224(12).

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