Animals

Learn more about how bumblebees switch to economy mode

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Bumblebees are incredible in all ways. They create delicious honey and are also responsible for the pollination of the plants. They have been a significant pollinator for fruits, flowers, or vegetables. Bumblebees can fly back to the hive with their body filled with nectar. They are known as heavy lifters of the insect world. A study showed that bees are more flexible than a bumbling insect.

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Susan Gagliardi, a research associate in the College of Biological Sciences at the University of California, states that bees can carry about 60, 70, or 80 percent of their body weight while flying. It is a considerable heavy load for humans, even if they walk around. She started her research when she was bitten by the curiosity bug to find more about it. 

Modes of flight

Bumblebees fuel their fly from the nectar they carry, which means they must get lighter with the flight, but to the surprise of Gagliardi, she found that the bees could use less energy per unit load when they are heavily loaded.

Although this doesn’t make any sense, bumblebees get economical in flying, with the more heavy load they have with them. When the researchers looked closely, they found that bumblebees have two different ways to cope with the increase in the load on them. They have an increased stroke amplitude when they are more heavily loaded and aren’t big enough to support the extra weight. 

Stability and economy

So the question that pops up in our mind is if the bees can save energy while flying, then why don’t they use this economical mode all the time? It still isn’t clear, but it might be because their high wingbeat frequency has performance advantages. 

Stacy Combes, assistant professor in the Department of Neurobiology, Physiology, and Behavior, states that when she started in this area, she saw it more like a small engine. She decided that once they swing their wings, they don’t carry a burden. However, on the contrary, they carry a 50 load, and it happens the same every time they try to experiment. However, this experiment gives them an estimate that the behavior they choose is the same even if they research on the new bee; traits remain the same.

So now you understand that foraging behavior in bees is essential to design a beneficial habitat for them in agricultural areas. As bumblebees collect vast amounts of nectar and pollen for their hives and in the process, they help farmers by providing valuable pollination services.

For example, a few wild bees are capable of fertilizing tomatoes. Many farmers rely on honey bees to pollinate crops, including squash, cranberries, eggplants, blueberries and many more.

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