Bees don’t see colours in the way that humans can. Instead, they can see ultraviolet light (UV light), which is invisible to the human eye. To us humans, UV light is mostly known for its ability to give us a tan, or to make retro posters glow in the dark, but for bees, UV light plays a crucial role in helping them determine which flowers are the most nectar-rich.
UV, blue and violet light
If you’ve ever seen a UV lamp, you can probably picture it in your mind as a purplish-blue hued light. That’s because UV light, violet light and blue light have the shortest wavelengths of any colour on the spectrum. Here’s a diagram that might help!
UV light has the shortest wavelength, which means that it is not visible to the human eye. But it is visible to bees!
If you shine a UV lamp over a nectar-rich flower, you’ll find that the centre of the flower appears darker. This is where the nectaries usually reside. In nectar-rich flowers, there are often pigmented patterns on the petals that absorb UV light and create a ‘guide’ to ferry the bee towards its nectaries. Remember, flowers want to be pollinated so that they can survive and produce offspring, so this UV pigment development is no accident. Some flowers that are not blue or purple have even evolved to develop a blue halo around their centre to attract bees.
While many different coloured flowers are nectar-rich, bees will be more attracted to purple and blue-coloured flowers because these have shorter wavelengths, like UV light. In contrast, bees can’t see red because the wavelengths are too long! However, while bees can’t see red, that doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t have red flowers in your garden if you’re looking to attract bees – it’s just that blue and purple flowers are even more enticing.
Blue and purple plants for pollinators
Violet is an extremely popular colour for gardens this year, as ‘Very Peri’ is Pantone’s Colour of the Year 2022! But not only is it super chic, it’s also perfect for pollinators. Here are my blue-purple floral picks for a pollinator-friendly garden:
Continue the colour into the evening
If you can’t get enough of those blue and purple shades, there’s no reason you can’t keep the colour going into the evening. While the conventional method of lighting up your garden at night may be to use white lighting, why not go for something a little different? Colourful lighting is the new go-to for a beautiful garden at night!
I’ve spotted the most perfect lights at QVC, which give you three options in terms of colour: blue, purple and white. These are perfect if you love colour, but also if you like to switch to something a little more neutral every now and then. The lights can be set to one of the three colours, or can cycle through the colours automatically.
The lights come in a set of four, and they’re powered by solar power – so they are energy and cost efficient! Each light is adjustable to the required angle and comes with both stakes and wall fixings for the ultimate flexibility for use in the garden.
Sturdy and weather resistant, these lights are great for bringing an overall colourful aura to your garden, as well as lighting up more specific areas such as walkways, sheds and flowerbeds.
Would you try colourful lights in your garden? Let me know in the comments below!
Michael has been involved with gardening and plants since he was just five years old. He is a self-professed Plant Geek, and was listed in the Sunday Times top 20 most influential people in the gardening world, thanks to his plant hunter role at Thompson & Morgan.
Michael was responsible for new plant introductions such as the Egg and Chips plant and the FuchsiaBerry and keeps busy travelling the world in search of new plants as well as lecturing worldwide, including stints in Japan. He is very active on social media – so why not give him a follow at @mr_plantgeek or Facebook. You can also listen to The Plant Based Podcast with Michael and co-host Ellen-Mary on iTunes, Spotify and Google.