Center for Advanced BioEnergy Research, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

Monday, December 20, 2010

Solar Powered Hornets – A New Source for Bioenergy?
December 16th, 2010 by Aaron Saenz

Harvesting sunlight for energy isn’t just for plants anymore. Scientists in Israel and the UK have discovered that the Oriental Hornet (Vespa orientalis) has a special ’solar panel’ that it uses to convert light into usable energy. The extra boost of energy the hornet receives may be why the insect correlates its nest-building activities with the intensity of the sun. A study of the hornet, and its solar panel, was recently published in the journal Naturwissenschaften. Researchers now have a new understanding of the special pigment, xanthopterin, the hornet contains in the yellow solar panel part of its body. This opens new possibilities in energy collection – there’s another biological option for solar power besides chlorophyll and photosynthesis. Oriental Hornets and xanthopterin are extraordinary examples of the surprises that nature has yet to show us in energy, genetics, and zoology.

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