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Bee stripes may not keep predators away
Bumblebees' distinctive bright yellow and black stripes may not be what keeps them safe from their enemies, scientists say.
A UK study has shown that otheraspects of bees' behaviour may matter more than the classic bee colour to keep predators away.
This could be the way bumblebees fly or perhaps the buzzing sound they make, say the scientists.
Theresults of the study were published in the Journal of Zoology.
Scientists have long believed that once flying predators get stung by a bee, they remember their experience and in the future rely stronglyon colour cues to identify their prey.
"The first time a bird eats a brightly coloured bumblebee it gets a nasty surprise. Remembering the bee's bright colours may help the bird to avoid making thesame mistake again," said Dr Nigel Raine from the School of Biological Sciences at Royal Holloway, University of London, a researcher on the study.
Birds perceive the world differently to humans,being able to see light in the ultraviolet range of the spectrum. But they can still distinguish between different species of bees, explained the scientist.
So the researchers wanted to check if bees'colours were the only thing that helped to warn off predators.
'Unexpected' results
Dr Raine and his colleagues from the University of London set up a number of colonies from different populations ofbumblebees in the UK, Germany and Sardinia.
Predators didn't seem to target the unusually coloured bees more than the native populations we tested
Dr Nigel E Raine University of London
Though someinsects had similar colour patterns - bands of bright yellow, white, orange or red and regions of black, others looked quite different from one another.
"In the UK, they are yellow-and-black-stripedwith a white tip on the abdomen, but in the Canary Islands for example they don't have any yellow bands at all - they're just black and white," said Dr Raine.
The scientists expected birds to rely...
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