Academic journal article Science and Children

A 'Blue Halo' Helps Bees Find Flowers

Academic journal article Science and Children

A 'Blue Halo' Helps Bees Find Flowers

Article excerpt

Several common flower species have nanoscale ridges on the surface of their petals that scatter light particles in the blue to ultraviolet color spectrum, generating a subtle effect that scientists have christened the "blue halo."

By manufacturing artificial surfaces that replicated blue halos, scientists were able to test the effect on pollinators--in this case, foraging bumblebees. They found that bees can use the blue halo to locate flowers more efficiently.

When analyzing different flower species, the researchers discovered these striations vary greatly in height, width, and spacing yet all produce a similar blue halo effect. Even on a single petal, these light-manipulating structures were found to be surprisingly irregular, a phenomenon physicists describe as disorder.

The researchers conclude that these "messy" petal nanostructures likely evolved independently many times across flowering plant species but reached the same luminous outcome that increases visibility to pollinators--an example of what's known as convergent evolution.

"It came as a real surprise to discover that the disorder itself is what generates the important optical signal that allows bees to find the flowers more effectively," says senior author Beverley Glover. …

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