Oct. 6, 2017


Here's a light colored form of birdfoot violet.  The nectar guides are particularly noticable.  Are these guides really necessary?  Don't the pollinators know how to find the good stuff as soon as they see the flower?  Are guides nothing more than eye shadow?  Should we hesitate to personify what we see with flowers? It turns out that these are surprisingly rewarding questions.  Sure, the bees can find nectar and pollen without guides.  On many flowers they do.  But notice how many flowers have guides.  The advantages relate to efficiency.  On flowers with guides, the pollinators find their reward more quickly.  That means they can visit more flowers on any flight.  And make more flights in a day.  For the flowers, it means the bees will dedicate themselves to the species that's easiest.  You get loyal bees!  That increases seed production for the species.  Then there are robber bees.  They steal nectar through holes in the base of the flower, rather than going through the messy and slower process of finding their way into the flower.  It turns out that bees that have used guides to find the nectar are less likely to turn to robbery.  This again, of course, increases seed production.  Soon we have lots of flowers with nectar guides.  As for personifying nature, are there parallels here to reproduction in other species?  The wonderful and necessary complexities are fascinating.