Time is honey: Circadian clocks of bees and flowers and how their interactions may influence ecological communities

Guy Bloch, Noam Bar-Shai, Yotam Cytter, Rachel Green

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review


The interactions between flowering plants and insect pollinators shape ecological communities and provide one of the best examples of coevolution. Although these interactions have received much attention in both ecology and evolution, their temporal aspects are little explored. Here we review studies on the circadian organization of pollination-related traits in bees and flowers. Research, mostly with the honeybee, Apis mellifera, has implicated the circadian clock in key aspects of their foraging for flower rewards. These include anticipation, timing of visits to flowers at specified locations and time-compensated sun-compass orientation. Floral rhythms in traits such as petal opening, scent release and reward availability also show robust daily rhythms. However, in only few studies was it possible to adequately determine whether these oscillations are driven by external time givers such as light and temperature cycles, or endogenous circadian clocks. The interplay between the timing of flower and pollinator rhythms may be ecologically significant. Circadian regulation of pollination-related traits in only few species may influence the entire pollination network and thus affect community structure and local biodiversity. We speculate that these intricate chronobiological interactions may be vulnerable to anthropogenic effects such as the introduction of alien invasive species, pesticides or environmental pollutants.

Original languageAmerican English
Article number20160256
JournalPhilosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences
Issue number1734
StatePublished - 19 Nov 2017


  • Bee
  • Circadian rhythms
  • Flower
  • Foraging behaviour
  • Network
  • Pollination

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • General Biochemistry,Genetics and Molecular Biology
  • General Agricultural and Biological Sciences


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