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Final moments of bee landing tactics revealed
Date:12/23/2009

Landing is tricky: hit the ground too fast and you will crash and burn; too slow and you may stall and fall. Bees manage their approach by monitoring the speed of images moving across their eyes. By slowing so that the speed of the looming landing pad's image on the retina remains constant, bees manage to control their approach. But what happens in the final few moments before touch down? And how do bees adapt to landing on surfaces ranging from the horizontal to upside-down ceilings? Flies land on a ceiling by simply grabbing hold with their front legs and somersaulting up as they zip along, but a bee's approach is more sedate. Mandyam Srinivasan, an electrical engineer from the Queensland Brain Institute, The University of Queensland and the Australian Research Council's Vision Centre, knew that bees must be doing something different from daredevil flies. Curious to know more about bee landing strategies Srinivasan teamed up with Carla Evangelista, Peter Kraft, and Judith Reinhard from the University of Queensland, and Marie Dacke, visiting from Lund University. The team used a high-speed camera to film the instant of touch down on surfaces at various inclinations and publish their discoveries about bee landing tactics in The Journal of Experimental Biology on December 28 2009 at http://jeb.biologists.org.

First the scientists built a bee-landing platform that could be inclined at any angle from horizontal to inverted (like a ceiling), then they trained bees to land on it and began filming. Having collected movies of the bees landing on surfaces ranging from 0deg. to 180deg., and every 10deg. inclination between, Evangelista began the painstaking task of manually analysing the bees landing strategies, and saw that the bees' approach could be broken down into 3 phases.

Initially the bees approached from almost any direction and at any speed, however, as they got closer to the platforms, they slowed dramatically, almost hovering, until
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Contact: Kathryn Knight
kathryn@biologists.com
44-078-763-44333
The Company of Biologists
Source:Eurekalert

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