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Electrically charged plants

  1. Jan 29, 2015 #1
    “Plants are usually charged negatively and emit weak electric fields. On their side, bees acquire a positive charge as they fly through the air. No spark is produced as a charged bee approaches a charged flower, but a small electric force builds up that can potentially convey information. The flower's potential changes and remains so for several minutes".
    (Link: http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/02/130221143900.htm)

    My question is: does this account for all plants/trees? And what about other insects than bees? Are there more examples of this electrical attraction between (sea) plants and pollinators?
  2. jcsd
  3. Jan 29, 2015 #2


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    The electrodynamics of a system are sensitive to its geometry, and hairy/fuzzy objects tend to be conducive to charge accumulation as they interact with other things (in this case, the bee fuzz is acquiring charge from collisions with air molecules).

    So there are probably some other flying fuzzy insects that will have the tendency to acquire charge, but whether it plays a role in interspecies communication is a different story.
  4. Feb 3, 2015 #3
    Last edited: Feb 3, 2015
  5. Feb 3, 2015 #4
    I don't doubt flying insects moving through the atmosphere acquire net charge. In the similar manner helicopters do too. These charges (and associated electrical potentials) can be quite large. Grounded plants electrical fields, if they generate some, must be very weak.
  6. Feb 3, 2015 #5


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    Plants don't just sit there in still air having nothing happen to them. They move in the wind, get brushed by creatures, etc. The Earth's surface can become charged too. Just look at a lightning strike.
  7. Feb 4, 2015 #6


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    The earth is recharged by thunderstorms. Thunderstorms deliver a net negative charge to the earth.

    Positive charge is carried upward through the air beneath and above a thunderstorm, the source being corona discharge off grass, trees and other objects with sharp points on the ground beneath the thunderstorm.

    The total current flowing beneath all thunderstorms in progress throughout the world at any one time is thought to be about 2000 amps, and is in such a direction as to charge the earth negatively.

    An approximately equal and opposite current flows in regions of fine weather.

    The result is that the net negative charge on the earth and the equal and opposite net positive charge in the atmosphere remain approximately constant.

    Source: Martin A. Uman, All About Lightning, pp153-158
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