Some Australian bees have been revealed to be night owls.
While bees are usually busy pollinating plants during the day, a new study has used high-quality images to identify two Australian species that have adapted their vision to work the night shift.
The study by a team of ecology researchers has observed night time foraging behaviour by two bee species (Reepenia bituberculata and Meroglossa gemmata), with both developing enlarged compound and simple eyes allowing more light to be gathered, compared to their daytime kin.
In results published in the Journal of Hymenoptera Research, the researchers found the bees improved low-light ability could potentially also exist in other Australian species that could secretly be active at night.
PhD Candidate James Dorey, in the College of Science & Engineering at Flinders University, says the two Australian bee species active at night and during twilight hours were mostly found in the tropical north, but there could be more in arid, subtropical and maybe even temperate conditions across the continent.
"There are likely to be many more that can forage both during the day and into the early morning or evening under low light conditions," he said.
"It's true that bees aren't generally known to be very capable when it comes to using their eyes at night, but it turns out that low-light foraging is more common than currently thought.
"Before this study, the only way to show that a bee had adapted to low-light was by using difficult-to-obtain behavioural observations, but we have found that you should be able to figure this out by using high-quality images of a specific bee."