Nanoscale glitches let flowers make a blue blur that bees can see | Science News

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Nanoscale glitches let flowers make a blue blur that bees can see

Imperfectly spaced petal ridges weaken iridescence — but that’s all good

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10:00am, October 25, 2017
halo flower

BLUE HALO  Bees can easily learn to recognize a bluish tinge called a blue halo created by sloppy nanoscale structures (located in the dark center circle, and seen at right) on such flowers as Ursinia speciosa

A bit of imperfection could be perfect for flowers creating a “blue halo” effect that bees can see.

At least a dozen families of flowering plants, from hibiscuses to daisy relatives, have a species or more that can create a bluish-ultraviolet tinge using arrays of nanoscale ridges on petals, an international research team reports online October 18 in Nature. These arrays could be the first shown to benefit from the sloppiness of natural fabrication, says coauthor Silvia Vignolini, a physicist specializing in nanoscale optics at the University of Cambridge.

Flowers, of course, can’t reach industrial standards for uniform nanoscale fabrication. Yet the halo may be a case where natural imperfections may be important to a flower’s display. Tests with artificial flowers showed that the nanoglitches made it easier for bees to learn that a showy petal meant a

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