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How Do Bees Choose Which Flowers to Pollinate?

Updated May 16, 2024
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There might be a magician in your yard. According to recent research, many types of flowers have developed the ability to create a blue halo in hopes of attracting bees to pollinate them. The blue hue, which is sometimes visible to the human eye as well, is the product of the ridges on the flowers' petals, which vary in terms of spacing and height to produce the colorful effect.

"The exciting thing is that it is a new optical trick," said University of Cambridge Professor Beverley Glover, a co-author of the research. "We didn’t know that flowers could use disorder to generate a specific color, and that is quite clever."

The researchers gathered a dozen different species of flowering plants. They found that although they varied in petal spacing and height, they all cast a similar incandescent sheen that is meant to attract bees. Blue blossoms tend to produce large amounts of nectar. "It is quite hard to make blue with chemical pigments, so maybe lots of flowers have come up with this other way," Glover said. "Even though it is not really visible to my eye, it is a trick of the light that works pretty well for the bees, because they can see those flowers really well."

Bee-lieve it:

  • An average honeybee hive is home to approximately 50,000 bees.

  • In its lifetime, a bee will produce only 1/12th of a teaspoon of honey.

  • Honeybees are the only insect that produces a food eaten by people.

WiseGeek is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
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