Wednesday, 6 March 2013

Spring has Sprung

Walking along the River Severn on a lazy Sunday just gone, it was hard to ignore the weather - which was milder, the water – which was lower, and the trees – which were blossoming. By no means was this the ‘boom of summertime’, but it was something of a rumble at least.  Something I've never really thought about is how plants and animals just seem to know when spring is here.

Apparently, plants know the time. The Mother Nature Network tells me how…

‘Plants have genes that suppress flowering and growth, and these genes are time sensitive. Plants actually register how many cold days have passed, and when enough have gone by, the genes are temporarily deactivated, allowing flowering and growth’.

It turns out that there is an actual in-built timer which counts the days of winter and has pretty good judgment of when the cold season is ending. The widely accepted reason for this is that plants can measure how long the days are through their window for photosynthesis; as the window gets bigger, plants begin to flower to aid pollination.  Likewise, the colder weather and shorter days lead to the suppressing of blossoming. It’s a very clever design! ‘I Always Wondered’ gives this more scientific, humorous explanation which brings me on to my next subject…

‘One particular species of plant, arabidopsis or ‘thale cress’, had its entire genome sequenced in 2000. Scientists discovered a gene that they, in a fit of creativity, named ‘COLDAIR’, or in Latin frigida (seriously). COLDAIR gets switched on after that long period of freezing temperatures and progressively turns off a gene responsible for inhibiting flowering, over a period of six weeks.
Then bees do it with them. SCIENCE!’

 So, where do the bees come from? Where do they hide away all winter? Do they migrate as birds do? Do they hibernate? No. They form a ‘winter cluster’.
Besides sounding like a seasonal breakfast cereal, this is another amazing natural mechanism that ensures the survival of our honey bees. According to the Gardening website ‘Dave’s Garden’

'Honeybees stop flying when the weather drops below 50 degrees. The worker bees huddle around the Queen bee at the center of the cluster, shivering in order to keep the center around 80 degrees. The worker bees rotate through the cluster from the outside to the inside so that no bee gets too cold.’

The colder the temperature, the more compact the cluster becomes. They're also a little bit furry which helps.

So that's where spring goes when it's not on its way!

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