Human Flower Project

Bees Lead


A new study by a group of scientists working in Australia has concluded that in the co-evolution of bees and flowers, bees—not flowers—lead the way. Basing their work on earlier research that theorized Australia’s first flowers were relatively colorless, the scientists then examined the color spectrum most easily perceived by honeybees and bumblebees. The native flowers examined tended to be of colors that bees find easiest to detect.

“We collected spectral data from 111 Australian native flowers and tested signal appearance considering the colour discrimination capabilities of potentially important pollinators.” Their findings regarding color were consistent with those reached in North American studies. “Subsequent mapping of Australian flower reflectances into a bee colour space reveals a very similar distribution of flower colour evolution to the Northern Hemisphere. Thus, flowering plants in Australia are likely to have independently evolved spectral signals that maximize colour discrimination by” bee pollinators.

Bees, by the way, “have trichromatic colour vision based on ultraviolet- (UV), blue- and green-sensitive photoreceptors.” Their “best discrimination” is for blue wavelengths (close to 400 and 500 nm). The scientists write, “behavioural experiments on free-flying honeybees have confirmed this theory.”

You can find the complete paper here.

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How bee vision would see a flower, one that looks yellow to human eyes


Photo: Phys





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