Aussie bees are metalheads, headbang for pollen

Australia's blue-banded bees head-butt flowers as many 350 times in a single second.
By Brooks Hays  |  Dec. 15, 2015 at 2:50 PM
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ADELAIDE, Australia, Dec. 15 (UPI) -- Bees these days, with their long hair and wild music.

In North America, bees are apparently still listening to the subtler, family-friendly rock 'n' roll of the 1950s. They use their hand-like front appendages to grab and shake, rattle and roll the pollen out of flowers.

New research proves their peers in Australia take a more hardcore approach to pollination. As a new slow-motion video reveals, Australia's blue-banded bees opt for a heavy metal strategy, headbanging flowers at high speed to dislodge pollen.

It's the first time researchers have documented the alternative approach to pollination.

"We were absolutely surprised. We were so buried in the science of it, we never thought about something like this. This is something totally new," researcher Katja Hogendoorn, a bee specialist with the University of Adelaide, said in a press release.

The bees in Australia operate at a speed no heavy-metal drummer could dream of matching; they head-butt flowers as many 350 times in a single second. The rhythm of their headbanging produces vibrations that release pollen into the air.

In analyzing the frequency of the bee's buzz as it goes about its head-butting routine, scientists were able to prove Aussie bees are more efficient at vibrating flowers than their cousins abroad. That efficiency allows them to spend less time at each flower.

Researchers shared their new findings this week in a paper published in the journal Arthropod-Plant Interactions.

"Our earlier research has shown that blue-banded bees are effective pollinators of greenhouse tomatoes," Hogendoorn said. "This new finding suggests that blue-banded bees could also be very efficient pollinators -- needing fewer bees per hectare."

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