New analysis led by Georgia Tech’s College of Engineering finds that honey bees have developed a approach to remodel pollen particles right into a viscoelastic pellet, permitting them to move pollen effectively, shortly, and reliably to their hive. The examine additionally suggests the bugs take away pollen from their our bodies at speeds 2–10 occasions slower than their typical grooming speeds.
To gather and transport pollen, honey bees combine pollen particles with regurgitated nectar and type it right into a pellet, which clings to every of their hind legs. The honey bees then deposit the pellets right into a cell throughout the hive by rigorously scraping them off utilizing their different legs.
The examine, from the lab of George W. Woodruff School of Mechanical Engineering Professor David Hu, sought to higher perceive the mechanics of this course of which may encourage new methods to fabricate and manipulate delicate supplies. Hu holds a joint appointment within the School of Biological Sciences.
The paper, “Biomechanics of Pollen Removal By the Honey Bee,” is revealed within the Journal of the Royal Society Interface.
“We measured the viscoelastic material properties of a pollen pellet,” stated Marguerite Matherne, a latest Georgia Tech mechanical engineering Ph.D. graduate who now teaches at Northeastern University. “We found that the pellets have a really long relaxation time, which means they remain mostly in a solid form during the transport process. This is good because it keeps the pellet from melting or falling apart from vibration during flight.”
Matherne and the Georgia Tech analysis staff additionally tried to duplicate how honey bees take away the pellets from their hind legs within the lab. They constructed a tool that scraped adhered pollen pellets from bee legs. The invention produced two discoveries. The first was that the honey bees had been rather more environment friendly in eradicating the pellet than the scraping machine they constructed (the machine left rather more pollen residue on the leg). They additionally discovered that slower elimination speeds cut back the power and work required to take away pellets underneath shear stress.
“If you take away it slowly, you may keep away from making use of the excessive force required to take away it shortly,” stated Hu, Matherne’s former Georgia Tech advisor. “Removing a pollen pellet is like the opposite of ripping off a Band-Aid.”
Matherne stated that there are two key elements to the effectivity of the honey bees transporting these pellets. First, the pellets are gooey, permitting them to stay to the hind legs. But, she stated, the bees even have a particular construction on their legs known as the corbicula. It’s fringed with lengthy, curved hairs and turns into embedded into the pellet, permitting for adhesion.
In addition, honey bees can gather pollen particles in varied sizes and styles, whereas additionally growing a approach to transport them. This is totally different from different species of bees, which solely gather and carry particular varieties of pollen which can be comparable in measurement. They additionally use totally different transport methods.
“Honey bees collect from flowers miles and miles away,” stated Hu. “The pollen can change in size by a factor of 10. They must collect all these individual particles and bring it back to one place. And they must do a dozen foraging trips each day, all while keeping their bodies clean. They solve it all by this special method they created to exploit the pellet’s soft material properties.”
The analysis staff believes additional research may result in new developments in medical patches or fastener functions for delicate supplies.
“It’s kind of like smart gooey Velcro for soft materials,” stated Hu. “It could be a fastener and it knows when you’re trying to remove it so that you don’t have to use an excessive amount of force.”
Matherne means that it is also necessary to know the pollinating course of since 35% of the world’s crop manufacturing depends upon pollinators.
“Honey bees are really important pollinators,” stated Matherne. “If we want to create a world where we can keep up our pollinators, I think it’s important to understand exactly what they’re doing.”
Marguerite Matherne et al, Biomechanics of pollen pellet elimination by the honey bee, Journal of The Royal Society Interface (2021). DOI: 10.1098/rsif.2021.0549
Georgia Institute of Technology
Honey bees have developed a approach to remodel pollen particles right into a viscoelastic pellet (2021, October 7)
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