Bumblebees can detect floral humidity

Michael J M Harrap , Natalie Hempel de Ibarra, Henry D Knowles, Heather M Whitney, Sean A Rands

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle (Academic Journal)peer-review

12 Citations (Scopus)
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Floral humidity, a region of elevated humidity proximal to the flower, occurs in many plant species and may add to their multimodal floral displays. So far, the ability to detect and respond to floral humidity cues has been only established for hawkmoths when they locate and extract nectar while hovering in front of some moth-pollinated flowers. To test whether floral humidity can be used by other more widespread generalist pollinators, we designed artificial flowers that presented biologically-relevant levels of humidity similar to those shown by flowering plants. Bumblebees showed a spontaneous preference for flowers which produced higher floral humidity. Furthermore, learning experiments showed that bumblebees are able to use differences in floral humidity to distinguish between rewarding and nonrewarding flowers. Our results indicate that bumblebees are sensitive to different levels of floral humidity. In this way floral humidity can add to the information provided by flowers and could impact pollinator behaviour more significantly than previously thought.
Original languageEnglish
Article numberjeb240861
Number of pages17
JournalJournal of Experimental Biology
Issue number12
Early online date21 May 2021
Publication statusPublished - 23 Jun 2021

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
M.J.M.H. was supported by a Natural Environment Research Council studentship within the GW4+ Doctoral Training Partnership (studentship NE/L002434/) and a Bristol Centre for Agricultural Innovation grant to S.A.R. H.M.W. was supported by the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (grant BB/M002780/ 1). The funding bodies played no role in the study design, data collection, analysis and interpretation or the writing of the manuscript. Open access funding provided by University of Bristol. Deposited in PMC for immediate release.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2021. Published by The Company of Biologists Ltd


  • behaviour
  • floral display
  • multimodal cues
  • learning
  • bumblebees
  • angiosperms
  • flower
  • pollination


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