Pollination – it’s what the bee sees

It’s all a matter of perspective… To us, flowers are pretty to look at, and we enjoy them in our gardens. But in reality, they mean serious business. Plants strut their stuff in the form of flowers to attract pollinators so as to ensure their own survival. Pollinators get a tasty drink of nectar or a snack of protein rich pollen in return, but the promise of a treat isn’t always enough to ensure success. Pollinators are also attracted by the scent of the flowers, adding further to the “come hither” call (and we humans can appreciate the scent), but one of the most important facets of the flower’s siren call is completely lost to us without special equipment.

Under ultraviolet light, the garden is a visual cacophony, crying  “Look at ME!” Flowers that just look yellow to us look quite different to a bee, as it both sees colors differently and picks up on UV light that we don’t see. Sometimes a flower looks completely different, as in the Dandelion. Instead of a bright yellow, the bee sees it in pale pink with a dark pink center, showing it exactly where to land for the most pollen. Other flowers have centers of indigo blue that to us look yellow only.

The science of bee vision is fascinating and offers a glimpse into a world that has been in front of our noses all this time, yet invisible. If you are interested in learning more about the scientific side of bee color vision, please click here. For a short video which will introduce you to the world as seen by pollinators, please enjoy this YouTube video by Robin Noorda.  In the mean time, here are a few pictures to whet your appetite. We bet you’ll never look at your garden quite the same again!



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