Spring's annual flower fashion show is just around the corner, and contrasting colors will be drawing all the bumblebees' attention. A recent study found that bees seem to be instinctively drawn to flowers that contrast with their environment.
But fashion-forward flowers needn't worry about patterns, bees seem unconcerned with solids vs. stripes.
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An experiment at the University of Cambridge, published in the journal Naturwissenschaften – The Science of Nature, exposed bumblebees to different colors and patterns of snapdragon flowers. The bees had been raised without ever seeing a flower, until they were presented with solid red or ivory flowers as well as a red-and-ivory striped variety. The flowers were set on a brown background.
The insects preferentially flew to the ivory and the peppermint-striped varieties.
Beauty is in the eye of the beholder, but to the bees' eyes, the red flowers held less attraction. Red is less reflective of light frequencies that bees can see, and hence didn't stand out as much as the white on the brown background.