Do Bees Prefer Certain Flowers?
All bees — including honey bees, bumblebees, and carpenter bees — feed on the nectar of flowers, and collect pollen from flowers to feed their larvae. In the process, bees play a crucial role in the pollination of plant life around the world.
Bees have a long proboscis — a complex tongue — which they use to obtain nectar from flowers; the nectar provides a source of energy. Depending on need, bees also deliberately collect pollen, a source of nutrients for their young. However, pollen often sticks to hairs on the bees’ bodies, and as the bees move from flower to flower, the pollen from one flower rubs off on another, thus causing pollination. Although this is an accidental process, pollination effected by bees is responsible for as much as 30 percent of global food supplies.
Given that there are thousands of varieties of flowers in gardens around the world, do bees prefer some flowers over others? There are many variables that affect why a bee will gravitate toward one flower rather than another. First is color: bees see ultraviolet colors that we can’t see, and the UV colors and patterns in a flower’s petals announce that flower as a good source of nectar and pollen. Typically, flowers with prominent UV colors are yellow to our eyes; wild hydrangea and sunflowers amplify their color signals, and are attractive to bees. Blue flowers are also attractive to bees. At the other end of the visible spectrum, bees do not detect red; instead, they see only black. Red flowers thus must depend on other animals, such as hummingbirds or butterflies, for pollination.
|Do Bees Prefer Certain Flowers?|
Bees are also attracted by delicate, sweet scents, which they are able to detect.
Shape is one other quality that can attract a bee. Open, bowl-shaped flowers such as roses, or tubular flowers such as foxgloves, snapdragons, penstemons, and heathers, all allow for easy landing and take-off. Bowl-shaped flowers that face the sun are particularly attractive, as they provide warmth as well. The single-flowered rose family, including crab apples, hawthorn, and potentilla, are attractive to bees.
Spring flowers that are most likely to attract bees include bluebells, bugles, hawthorn, crab apples, forget-me-nots, daffodils, flowering cherry and currant, hawthorn, rosemary, pussy willow, and rhododendron. In the early summer, try geraniums, foxgloves, aquilegia, snapdragons, potentilla, astilbe, campanula, comfrey, fennel, everlasting sweet pea, fennel, thyme, and verbascum. Late summer possibilities would include aster, angelica, cardoon, cornflower, single-flowered dahlia, delphinium, eryngium, fuchsia, ivy, globe thistle, lavender, heather, penstemon, scabious, and sedum.
It is easy to create a garden that is attractive to bees, if you select the right kinds of flowers.
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