If you’ve been reading my blog for a while, you’ve probably noticed that blues and purples are my favourite colours in the garden.
Some of the darker flowers have a lovely velvety look – petunias and the deep purple morning glory ‘Grandpa Otts’ spring to mind. They just ask you to stroke them! And at the lighter end of the range, soft violets and lilac-blues are delicately beautiful.
So I’m delighted to read that bees share my attraction to these colours and often prefer blue and violet flowers.
Scientists studying bees’ vision have discovered that, unlike us, bees can see ultraviolet light. This allows bees to see the ultraviolet patterns that flowers use to show them where to find nectar.
(There’s even a colour named ‘bee’s purple’, which is a mixture of yellow and ultraviolet light and is visible to bees but not to us.)
A German scientific study of bumblebees also found that (in an area where violet flowers produced the most nectar), they preferred violet over blue. This allowed the bees to collect more nectar than bees that didn’t show a preference.
Apparently the world bees see is a mixture of mostly blue, green and ultraviolet, also yellow and some orange, but no red. Red just looks like a black to bees, but bees have an excellent sense of smell, so that flowers in the red colour range can attract them by scent.
There are already a number of bee-friendly plants in blues and purples in my garden.
Cerinthe (top photo) is a marvelous plant for pollinators because it is especially rich in nectar, giving it the common name of ‘Honeywort’. (This cerinthe was photographed in a garden I was visiting in the spring. The cooler temperatures at that time gave it a much darker colouring than my own plants had in the warmth of summer.)
The geranium ‘Rozanne’ is now lazily flopping into the lavender bushes beside it, creating a partnership that pleases both me and the bees. This geranium flowers over a long period, so it really earns its place in a bee-border.
Another flower that is popular with bees and that self-sows around my garden is Centaurea montana – the perennial cornflower. It also attracts butterflies and moths, which means it works well as a pollinator magnet. The unusual flower shape and the combination of blue and magenta make it a lovely garden plant.
The daisy bush (Olearia) was photographed in a garden I visited in spring. Apparently it attracts both bees and butterflies – and I’m wondering if I can find a suitable space for one in my own garden…
As you might expect, I’m looking forward to checking out what violet, purple and blue flowers are best for bees. There will, of course, be plenty of other colours too. But, hey, I’m really pleased that my buzzy little friends share my colour preferences!