When bumblebee queens emerge from hibernation, they need to gather pollen and nectar to start their new colonies.
If they wake up too soon, there may not be enough flowers in bloom.
Now, researchers have discovered the bees nibble holes in leaves, spurring plants to blossom weeks ahead of schedule.
Many questions remain about the details of this strategy and how it evolved.
Researchers at ETH Zürich chanced upon the discovery when they noticed curious bite marks on leaves while studying how bees respond to plant odours.
They had added bumble bees to a research greenhouse and observed them cutting holes in the shape of half-moons.
At first, the researchers thought the insects might be feeding on fluid from the leaves, but the bees didn’t stay long enough to get much.
Nor did they appear to be taking any part of the leaves back to their colonies.
Source: Science magazine