Washington, Oct 25 : Researchers at Queen Mary, University of London, have found that bumblebees use flower scent to guide their nest-mates to good food sources.
Creatures like bees, who generally have societies of their own, tell their peers about food-rich sites and 'recruit' them to the search.
Honeybees use waggle dance to inform their nest-mates about the distance and direction of a food source.
However, bumblebees communicate geographical information by releasing a recruitment pheromone in the nest to encourage their colleagues to venture out in search of food.
Through the study, Mathieu Molet, Lars Chittka and Nigel Raine from the School of Biological and Chemical Sciences aimed to discover if this recruitment pheromone helped bees to learn which specific flowers were most rewarding at that time.
Thus, they exposed bumblebee colonies to an anise scent mixed with recruitment pheromone and then examined their foraging patterns.
Bees came to know that anise-scented flowers were the most beneficial, when the flower smell was brought back to the nest by another 'demonstrator' bee.
In fact, they could also learn it when the anise odour entered the nest as either scented nectar or simply scent in the air.
"Successful bees motivate their sisters to find food by running excitedly around the nest, buzzing and releasing pheromone. They bring home the scent of the flowers they visited which fills the air and flavours the honey. The other bees leave the nest and search for nectar-rich flowers with the same smell," said Raine.
The presence of recruitment pheromone had no effect on how well bees learned a new flower scent.
However, the pheromone was found to increase foraging activity in bumblebee colonies. This could increase the effectiveness of these bees pollinating important commercial crops such as tomatoes.