Bee pollinating nightshade. The pollen is hiding in the yellow tubes and has to be shaken out with buzzing. Photo by Jerry Friedman via Creative Commons
Bee pollinating nightshade. The pollen is hiding in the yellow tubes and has to be shaken out with buzzing. Photo by Jerry Friedman via Creative Commons

Bees As Tuning Forks, And Why Your Pizza Depends on Them

For this week’s “Matter” column, I write about the bees buzzing from flower to flower this summer. In particular, I take a look at the bees that pollinate 20,000 species of plants–including crops like tomatoes and potatoes–with some amazing acoustics. They vibrate hundreds of times a second to shake pollen loose from special tubes in the flowers.

That’s why you can use a tuning fork to coax some flowers to release a cloud of pollen, as this video from Anne Leonard of the University of Nevada, Reno, illustrates. Bees, in other words, are living tuning forks.