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Editor's Note: Perfect Timing

Timing is everything.

In early 2019, researchers at Tel Aviv University released a paper indicating that flowers can “hear” the sounds of pollinators and adjust the sweetness of their nectar in response. Scientists Lilach Hadany and Yossi Yovel discovered that primrose plants reacted to the wingbeats of a bee by increasing the sugar content in their nectar by 20 percent. The plants responded only to the lower-frequency wingbeats and not to other sounds.

As reported in The Atlantic in an article titled “Plants Can Hear Animals Using Their Flowers,” by Ed Yong, the research findings are significant because the flowers respond only to certain external stimuli, and they do so consistently. Yong notes that “…it takes a lot of energy to make supersweet nectar, and the resulting brew could be degraded by microbes or stolen by nonpollinating thieves. Far better to sweeten the fluid when it most needs to be sweet—and the buzz of a bee is the perfect cue that the time is right.”

The paper adds to the growing research around plant communication and response. Other research findings show that some plants, when attacked by insects, send airborne distress signals to warn other nearby plants. 

One study by researchers from the Max Planck Institute found that, when eaten by the hornworm caterpillar, tobacco plants send out a chemical signal. The chemical mixes with the hornworm’s saliva to release a substance that attracts a bug that eats hornworm caterpillars.

What makes these actions astonishing is that they are not random chance, they are specific responses to specific situations. In short, it’s all in the timing. 

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A prime opportunity to learn from industry experts and from security professionals around the world is coming up soon at Global Security Exchange (GSX) 8–12 September in Chicago.

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