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Bees force plants to flower early by cutting holes in their leaves

Hungry bumblebees have a trick up their sleeve Hannier Pulido, ETH Zurich Hungry bumblebees can coax plants into flowering and making pollen up to a month earlier than usual by punching holes in their leaves.

Bees normally come out of hibernation in early spring to feast on the pollen of newly blooming flowers. However, they sometimes emerge too early and find that plants are still flowerless and devoid of pollen, which means the bees starve.

Fortunately, bumblebees have a trick up their sleeves for when this happens. Consuelo De Moraes at ETH Zurich in Switzerland and her colleagues discovered that worker bumblebees can make plants flower earlier than normal by using their mouthparts to pierce small holes in leaves. Read more: Climate change is killing off bumblebees in Europe and North America

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In a series of laboratory and outdoor experiments, the researchers found that bumblebees were more likely to pierce holes in the leaves of tomato plants and black mustard plants when deprived of food. The leaf damage caused the tomato plants to flower 30 days earlier than usual and the black mustard plants to flower 16 days earlier.

It is still a mystery how the leaf damage promotes early […]

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