Pollen hitches a ride on bees in all the right spots | Science News

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Pollen hitches a ride on bees in all the right spots

Hard-to-groom zones line up with where flower reproductive parts touch the insects

By
2:00pm, September 6, 2017
pollen on a bee under UV light

MISSED A SPOT  After bees groom pollen off their bodies, there’s still some left over (illuminated here under ultraviolet light). These overlooked areas correspond to places where flowers’ reproductive parts come in contact with the bees, a new study shows.

Bee bodies may be built just right to help pollen hitch a ride between flowers.

For the first time, scientists have identified where and how much pollen is left behind on bees’ bodies after the insects groom themselves. These residual patches of pollen align with spots on bees’ bodies that touch flowers’ pollen-collecting reproductive parts, researchers report online September 6 in PLOS ONE.

Typically, when honeybees and bumblebees visit flowers for nectar, they brush much of the pollen that powders their bodies into pocketlike structures on their legs to carry home for bee larvae to eat. In fact, bees are so good at stashing pollen that less than 4 percent of a flower’s pollen grains may reach the pollen-receiving parts of a second flower of the same species. Given bees’ pollen-hoarding prowess, researchers wondered how they came to play such a

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