What makes the Apis Mellifera (honey bee) attracted so much to the lavender flower? We could simply say it was the unique perfume of this flower but that would not be totally correct. First, we have to look at the world of colour. For human beings, we see with normal colour vision. Our eyes are sensitive to all three primary colours. This is called trichromatic vision and bees see the same. However, bees have an added ability. They have “super vision”. They can see more in the ultra violet end of the colour spectrum and this changes what they see in and around their landscape. That is what attracts them to these wonderful lavender fields.
The eyes of the bee are made up of hundreds of single optical lens (ommatidia). When viewed altogether, they provide a large compound image. As an example, we can think about a single pixel being used on a sensor in the digital cameras of today.
So what does this colour spectrum look like for us and the bees? The chart shows us that the bees are able to see a lot more than us in the ultra violet (UV) range. They do however see less in the red zone and this is confusing for them with the greens. Since the colour violet is close to the intensive UV, the lavender flower must surely show up highly on the bee radar.
But flowers and bees rely on each other. For the trade off of pollination, the flowers provide nectar in return. This mutualism, visible to us may not be the only method of attraction occurring. There are reports that some flowers give off a low electrical charge. Flowers are supposedly in the negative field for bees and what effect this does to attract them is still uncertain.
I recommend you read more about bee vision from the link below with Bee Culture. Here they describe the additional eyes bees have on the top of their head. As they say… “fascinant!”
A bee is able to see color, because each of these tiny tubes contains eight cells that respond to light. Four of these cells respond to yellow-green light, two respond to blue light, and one responds to ultraviolet light. But a bee’s super sight powers go much farther than seeing mere colors. A bee can also detect polarized light. Polarized light moves in one direction. It’s caused when air molecules from the atmosphere scatter the photons to create a “super highway” of light. A bee’s amazing eye can scan and match the polarization patterns in the sky. It’s a bee version of GPS. They are able to use this polarized light as a navigating system. What makes this such a super power is that bees can use polarized light to locate direction even when the sun isn’t shining. They then communicate these directions to the colony. Basically, it’s a bee road-map. Bees can find their way back home by checking the pattern of polarized light in the sky.
(Source: Bee Culture)
So with a large field of lavender, we can only imagine what goes through the mind of a bee. The word Eureka! comes to mind. The following photos were taken at the Wanaka Lavender Farm in Central Otago, New Zealand. Here, Stef and Tim work their magic to produce some wonderful honey and a wide range of lavender infused products. It is November and only the Stoechas variety was in flower but by December everything will be blooming. Drop by and say hello the next time you are down that way. They have a wonderful range of products for gift giving…