Flowers may use UV patterns to attract bees. See how, and check out photos that shows us approximately what a bee sees when it looks at flowers.
This is a confusing time to be a human. As the human race unlocks the secrets of genetics and uses them to make square tomatoes and clone velociraptors, we know that we have reached unparalleled mastery over the natural world.
At the same time, all of our newfound knowledge reminds us how lucky we are that we evolved brains big enough to get the hell indoors. The more we understand about the natural world, the more we realize that our senses are embarrassingly dim compared to those of the rest of the natural world.
We've accepted that our sense of smell is worthless compared to dogs, a species that likes to roll in feces before coming indoors, and our hearing is muffled compared to cats, a species that pretends not to hear us when we call.
At least the plant kingdom isn't pulling a fast one on us...or is it?
Turns out we're wrong. Flowers have been playing a double game on us all along. They aren't nearly as concerned with our ideas of beauty as they are with attracting insects, especially bees. And the way bees see the world is very different from the way we do.
Light visible to humans is a very narrow range of the electromagnetic spectrum, around 700 to 400 nanometer wavelengths.
Bees see just as limited a range, but their range visible light is skewed from ours. It is from 600 to 300 nanometers wavelengths. This means that bees literally cannot see the color red. They can, however, see several colors in the ultraviolet spectrum.
Flowers, as said before, didn't evolve just for us. They also evolved by thriving when they displayed colors or patterns that catch a bee's fancy. Sometimes they do this without us even noticing. This blossom, for example, looks white and yellow to us.
To a bee, it looks like it painted a bloody bull's eye on itself.
I'm not quite sure why a bee would find that attractive. Maybe bees are perverts and want flowers to look like the stars of some depraved botanical snuff film. But that doesn't matter. The point is that bees and flowers have been signaling each other behind our backs. And you know they were laughing at us. To see other examples of the flower's secret displays to the bees, check out this gallery.
[Via: West Mountain Apiary.]