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back to article Bees use 'electrical SIXTH SENSE' to nail nectar-stuffed flowers

There's electricity in the air when bees meet flowers: according to a new study, the blooms and approaching insects uses electrical signals to find out whether there is nectar and pollen to spare. A bee covered with pollen on a flower My spidey bumble senses are tingling As they fly through the air, bumblebees acquire a …

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Sixth sense?

Why do people go on about how amazing a sixth sense is? Humans have more than seven main senses, the fixation with five came from a very old and primitive assessment that, for example, completely overlooked balance and lumped our heat sense in with our tactile sense.

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Joke

Re: Sixth sense?

The mistaken idea that we have only five senses dates back to ancient Greece and came about because Harry's total was wrong.

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Re: Sixth sense?

Poor jokes aside, it is truly staggering that the notion we have just five senses is still taught as a standard part of school curricula. A quick search for [teaching "five senses"], for example, brings up volumes of teaching materials designed for kindergarten onwards. And often these claim to be teaching science.

Why can't the children also be asked to close their eyes and touch their noses? Proprioception. Or to stand on one foot? Balance. Or feel the warmth of the sun ...

Aristotle was indeed a great philosopher, but that's no reason to continue to indoctrinate generations with this major mistake that he made.

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Re: Sixth sense?

Agreed wholeheartedly. And while we're at it, aren't all senses based on electric eletrical signals?

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Re: Sixth sense?

You're right, and in fact anyone who's worked with old CRT monitors can attest that humans can detect a static charge at a relatively short distance.

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Re: Sixth sense? @Annihilator

Article in new scientist a fair while back about how many senses we had, don't remember clearly but IIRC they said it depended on how you break them down. We could have as few as 3 (mechanical, chemical, electromagnetic I think) or as many as 26, if you wish to subdivide (dont' ask, I don't remember).

ferexample I suppose they mean taste & smell are just chemical, hearing & touch & proprioception and balance are types of mechanical, etc.

Your 'all is electrical signals' may confuse the detection (the sense) with the transmission to the brain (via nerves).

(Curiously, whenever I read my past posts I notice a distinct absence of the 27th sense - of humour).

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Re: Sixth sense? @Annihilator

"Your 'all is electrical signals' may confuse the detection (the sense) with the transmission to the brain (via nerves)."

Na, was thinking down at atomic level below all that. Our sense of touch is, on the basic level, detecting the electromagnetic fields?

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Re: Sixth sense?

"Why do people go on about how amazing a sixth sense is?"

Indeed, to say nothing of the fact that sharks use electrical currents to detect prey, as do other sea creatures.

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Anonymous Coward

So, this finding has no bearing on the idea that wireless signals and electrical pollution could be a factor in dropping bee populations?

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wireless signals and electrical pollution

Sigh. Static electrical charge is not the same thing as wireless (radio) propagation. The article is about the bees' use of the former.

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The nicotine molecule-like pesticides are in the frame for that

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Although...

I've found myself wondering about submillimeter (Terahertz) directional antennas, and moth antennae. Do moths get completely confused by artificial lights not because they emit light, but because they're a strong source of THz emission? Just a thought. Has anyone tested moths' response to a completely cold light source (ie one that's not also strongly emitting at THz? )

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How does that work with half a bee?

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Coat

Dunno, the results were not entirely positive.

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"some of the positive charge on the insect may transfer to the plant"

It's been a while since I did it at school, but doesn't electricity work the other way round?

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Paris Hilton

@Gareth

Indeed the charge carriers here are electrons, and are negatively charged. However, it's still OK to talk about transferring charge, both positive and negative. A positively charged body can be thought of as a deficit of electrons relative to some other object. Whatever, I gave up on the physics of the article after:-

"while flowers, which are grounded, have a negative charge"

The ground is the reference point of an electrical system, and so doesn't have any charge per se, by convention it's at a potential of zero volts. The ground can sink and source charge, but it doesn't make sense to say a grounded object has 'negative charge'.

Paris. She's been charged more than once.

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Re: @Gareth

re: ground...

Be that as it may, it doesn't stop us from building up a fair charge on carpets and the like. I'm guessing that the plant itself is acting as an insulator and it's the bees' rubbing against the pollen/stamen is what sets up the differential. Kind of like a mini Van De Graaf generator.

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Happy

Re: @Gareth

@FB, your post reminded me of this. So, to be technically correct, the best kind of correct, it's a Van de Graaff generator. However, your spelling is better than Peter Hammill's, who named his band Van der Graaf Generator, which was also an accidental misspelling. Ah, the majesty of prog rock!

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Re: @Gareth

Ok, thanks for the clarification.

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Devil

Bees not as amazing as Australian face flies.

The fly can detect odours in the air, of chemicals applied to the face and or body of toxins and repellants and they can fly in and land on the teeny little strip that you missed that is 6mm wide and 20mm long, on your cheek, not far under your right eye.....

They do it with sensor pads on their feet.

Science Fakt:

You heard it from ME first, because I took notice of them and published it here, first.

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Re: Bees not as amazing as Australian face flies.

That is why I, and everyone else I know, explicitly ignore the big capital-letter warning DO NOT SPRAY DIRECTLY TOWARD EYES OR MOUTH printed on every Aerogard can. The only way to guarantee 100% coverage of every square millimetre is to close your eyes and mouth and do exactly that.

If you obey the warning and do what you're supposed to by spraying it on your hands and rubbing it on your face, then as you say, there'll be one fucking fly that finds the three square mm that you missed.

I also noticed the flies seemed particularly bad this year. At Victor Harbor last December, on top of the Bluff, we were mugged by the fucking things, even though a fair breeze was blowing that should have cleared them off. These flies seemed immune to wind, Aerogard and even the traditional Aussie salute. And the last time I'd seen so many was when I was up in the outback round Arkaroola years ago!

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Re: Bees not as amazing as Australian face flies.

I am suprised you use Aerogard down under. You must have a faulty cork hat.

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Ironic

The blind faith in evolutionary hypotheses never ceases to baffle me. Those who claim their belief in evolution follows from logical, scientific thinking continue to demonstrate a predilection for ignoring the obvious in favor of their personal "faith", as seen in the language of this article. Ergo, the more amazing the design found in life systems, the less these "enlightened", evolutionary contemporaries surmise design or reasoning. The more complexity, specificity, and (let's face it) brilliance we seem to observe in tiny animals like bees, we still bafflingly blurt out "IT'S AN ACCIDENT!"

Give me a logic break.

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Stop

Re: Ironic

Talking of blind, be a good chap and fuck off and read The Blind Watchmaker. Thanks very much.

Or try a God book. Jer. 5:21 (King James version): "Hear now this, O foolish people, and without understanding; which have eyes, and see not; which have ears, and hear not."

Even God tells you there are none so blind as will not see. If you do a bit of looking at the evidence, and you'll _see_ there's no need for faith.

P.s. Sorry for feeding the troll.

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Re: Ironic

I assume you troll, but I will still bite.

At no point does Evolutionary Theory point suggest that it's an accident, that is nothing more than a claim made by its detractors. I would call it a straw man, but it's not even that sophisticated.

It would seem that as well as basic biological senses our schools are deficient in teaching the single most complete theory (more so than even gravity, but you never complain about that in the physics articles) in the history of the human race. As another notes, go and read "The Blind Watchmaker" or an easier read is "The Greatest Show on Earth". Or if you feel up to the somewhat dusty Victorian style, go for Darwin's original.

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Re: Ironic

A further irony -- you quote from a book that patently and repeatedly refutes your position, and it also happens to be irrelevant to my statements. Your argument, sir, is self-defeating and nonsensical. From the vacuity of your logic so far, I can see it will be a waste of time to respond further.

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WTF?

Re: Ironic

Sanity Soapbox, your argument simply does not exist at all. It is a non-argument, it not only has ceased to be but never was. It's a statement of an empty belief with no thought behind it whatsoever.

For the hard-of-thinking, here's a brief summary of evolution:

A random change occurs to the offspring of a lifeform compared to its parents.

That change will either be good for the offspring, bad for the offspring or make no detectable difference.

- If the change is good, it is more likely to survive and have offspring of its own, thus the descendants also have that particualr change and over time it becomes more common.

- If the change is bad, it is less likely to survive and have further offspring, thus the change will be rare or be lost entirely.

- If the change is indifferent, it has the same chance and so the change may be retained.

It's clear that given time, "advantageous" changes will accumulate (opposable thumbs, better eyesight...) and a variety of "harmless" differences will appear (freckles, hair colour...).

It's also clear that as the environment changes, the definitions of Good, Bad and Indifferent will also change.

Perhaps making something that was previously Indifferent a Good or Bad thing, or even something that was Bad (no eyes) Indifferent or even Good (it's now in a dark cave and needs less food than its eyed cousins), and vice-versa.

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Boffin

Re: Ironic

Wow. All I can say to you, Sanity Soapbox, is that your statements are not just wrong, they are fractally wrong, which means any effort at refutation would result in an infinite recursion of wrongness. Since a first-level refutation has already been made, I'll spare myself the infinite time required for successive ones...

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Bah!

Are these the same scientists who once tried to claim that ferns could remember who treated them nicely and who was mean to them? I have an innate tendency to ignore scientists when they talk about sixth senses and electric fields because, you know, the whole crop circle thing.

"The grain shows signs of having an extreme electrical field applied to it, some sort of vortex effect."

"Electric field" as in "wooden plank", "vortex effect" as in "drunk yoof, walking in circles".

The bees probably just jot down where they get their pollen or use Google Maps like the rest of us.

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Re: Bah!

Why don't you plug yourself into the wall and see what science says about it?

Be sure to get back to us and let us know how science you find in there.

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Happy

What Type of Bees?

Are they the type of bees that make milk?

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Buzzers get a charge out of a pause to sniff the roses

I admit to having the electrical sense myself (one of my many extra-senses). The hair on my arms and other parts of my hair endowed anatomy signal the lay of the land.

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