Ecology researchers at Flinders University have found two species of Australian bees that forage in the dark. It has been discovered that these two species have developed night vision. They are found to be more active during the nighttime and twilight hours. These species include:
- Nomiine bees (Reepenia bituberculata)
- Masked bees (Meroglossa gemmata)
What Makes These Bees Different from Their Daytime Kin?
Bees usually pollinate plants during the daytime. However, this recent study has revealed these two night owl species. High-quality images have revealed that Nomiine and Masked bees have improved their vision to work at night. These species have developed large compound and simple eyes that accumulate more light than their daytime kin.
The Occurrence of Nocturnal Bees
Ph.D. Candidate James Dorey, College of Science & Engineering at Flinders University, has revealed that these two Australian bee species belong to the tropical North. However, they can also survive the arid, temperate, and even subtropical conditions. This means these bee species could be found across the entire continent.
According to researchers, there is a high possibility of bees that can work in both day and night. They have adapted themselves to forage under dim light conditions. Bees were once considered incapable of working at night, however, with this latest discovery, it has been revealed that low-light foraging is not that uncommon.
How Have Nocturnal Bees Been Discovered?
Before this discovery, scientists had to rely on difficult-to-obtain behavioural observations to determine whether these species have adapted to low-light conditions. However, with the advent of technology, all you need is superior quality pictures of a specific bee to figure it out.
What Do We Know About Nocturnal Bees?
According to Dorey, bees that have developed night-vision are understudied. There is not enough published records available so there is a lot that’s yet to be learned and revealed about these unique species of Australian bees.
He explains that his study will serve as a framework that identifies species that have adapted to low light. It will also provide potential researchers with the data they need to determine other similar bee species’ behavioural traits.
He also expressed the need to study the behavioural pattern of bees outside of regular hours. According to Dorey, the increased effort will help scientists learn the role these unique insects play in sustaining the ecosystem. It will also help them publish new observations that take this research a few steps ahead.
How Can Research Help in Preserving Nocturnal Bees?
It is important to learn the behaviour of the species that forage in the dark. This will help in the creation of strategies that protect these species from the impact of global warming and climate change.
He further added, with changing weather patterns, the temperature in various regions of Australia is rising. This has caused an increase in the threat of fires and prolonged droughts. Therefore, it is high time to better understand insects’ pollinating behaviour that forages at night or during twilight hours. It will help us reverse the extinction risks that might cause pollination services to decline.
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