Super Hero Bee-Sight

Over 100 years ago, Karl von Frisch proved that bees can see colour, and the brilliant colour in flowers is a way of attracting them to nectar.  Even though humans can see more colours, bees have a much broader range of colour vision, and their ability to see ultraviolet light gives them an advantage when looking for nectar.  Their super sight with UV light shows them patterns on flowers we can’t as humans see, patterns that work as nectar guides.  Amazingly some flowers such as sunflowers, pansies and primroses have nectar guides that can only be seen in ultra-violet light. The patterns on the flowers guide the honey bees like a landing strip, and this explains why honey bees will choose a particular flower from a field of all white flowers, because they aren’t just seeing white, they’re seeing the UV markers.

Honey bees are different to us too, in that we see colour combinations on red, blue and green, while honey bees base their colours on ultraviolet light, blue and green.   So bees don’t see the colour red.  They do see reddish wavelengths, like yellow and orange, and also blue-green, blue, violet, and “bee’s purple.”  Bee’s purple is a combination of yellow and ultraviolet light.  Humans can’t see it! Only super hero bee sight!  When planting up your gardens with your honey bees in mind, you might want to remember that scientists say that colours most likely to attract bees are purple, violet and blue.  And they love certain weeds too.

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