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Wikenigma - an Encyclopaedia of Unknowns Wikenigma - an Encyclopaedia of the Unknown Science

Electrostatic pollination

The idea that flying insects might be electrically charged during flight bystatic electricityplugin-autotooltip__plain plugin-autotooltip_bigStatic electricity

Static electricity has been investigated for more than 2 thousand years. The earliest written scientific accounts of 'static electricity' are believed to be those of Thales of Miletus at around 600BC. He thought (correctly, but for the wrong reasons)…
was suggested almost 100 years ago. (Heuschmann, O. (1929). Über die elektrischen Eigenschaften der Insekten Haare, Journal of Comparative Physiology A: Neuroethology, Sensory, Neural, and Behavioral Physiology, 10(4), 594- 664.)

Because static can attract small particles, its possible role in assisting pollination by attracting pollen grains is currently being investigated.

A year-2000 review study looked at progress so far in understanding electrical pollination :

The possible involvement of electrostatic phenomena in pollination processes in nature has been a subject of discussion and speculation for the last 20 years. The theory of the electrostatic aspect of pollination describing the effect of a charged bee approaching a flower, has been widely known for many years, but only recently has its occurrence in nature been partially confirmed.
[…]
However, much more research is required, to elucidate the relevant phenomena, in both natural and agricultural systems.
Source : Pollen and Pollination (pp.133-142)

To date, many insect species have been checked, including bees, bumblebees and house flies (hummingbirds have also been tested). They tend to have electrical charges in the low tens of pico Coulombs, usually positive (i.e. lacking electrons as compared with the environment)

It's currently unknown whether electrostatics play a very major part in pollination, a very minor part, or somewhere in between.

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