1 Tahrcountry Musings: Oriental Hornets and the Art of Tapping Solar Energy

Tuesday, December 07, 2010

Oriental Hornets and the Art of Tapping Solar Energy

The mysteries of nature never cease to fascinate me. Here is something amazing that I learned the other day.
Scientists have discovered that oriental Hornets (Vespa orientalis), are capable of harvesting solar energy. The discovery was made by a team of researchers working in Israel and the UK, led by Dr Marian Plotkin of Tel-Aviv University.

The fact that Oriental hornet workers, which dig out nests underground, correlate their digging activity with the intensity of sunlight had always puzzled the researchers. The late Professor Jacob S Ishay had proposed that the insects may somehow be capable of harvesting solar radiation.

The team led by Dr Plotkin's tested this hypothesis, with remarkable results. Using an atomic force microscope, the researchers examined the fine structure of the hornet's cuticle. The clue lay in the structure of the yellow part of the hornet's body. These structures had the ability to stop light being reflected off the hornet's body. The light is trapped, and harvested for energy. Within the cuticle there is a pigment that captures the energy of the sun's rays. This aids the hornets with their energy demanding digging activity, Wow

The details of the discovery appear in the journal Naturwissenschaften.

No comments: