"Excitement around every corner
- a true gardeners delight"
C.Sanders, Hampshire

Bees love blue

Added 4 yearss ago

Back in April when I started doing this blog, I based my writing on the flowers and foliage I’d picked from the garden to display on the pedestal stand in the Visitor Centre. I’ve digressed quite extensively since then but this week I’ll return to my original flavour…the most obvious flowers for me to pick at this time of year are Hydrangeas.  Those familiar with the garden will know that we have approximately 2 acres so in between now and Christmas, the supply is endless.  Whilst we have china-blue mopheads in the main, tucked away in Hydrangea Valley are lacecaps, paniculatas, oak leaf species, black-stemmed varieties and a whole range of colours from the deepest blue through to white.

I try to vary the Hydrangea flower arrangements and this week chose white mopheads to stand out in the low light levels.  I’ve always wondered about flower colour – are certain flowers in bloom at particular times of year more likely to be of a particular colour to better attract pollinating insects?  Why should entomophilis flowers (i.e. flowers which require cross pollination by insects) have coloured petals if it’s not to perform the above function?

Flowers are the result of marketing wizardry and apparently both colour and scent are important. Experiments have shown the importance of colour in attracting the biologically higher types of insects (such as bees) those with a relatively long life in the winged state, with a long direct flight, and with sharp sight. Bee-pollinated flowers are typically bright blue, violet or yellow – barely red (a colour they can’t see).

Biologically lower forms of insects i.e. short life in winged state and short flight, have less power of sight and are more dependent on smell. Scent is also important for flowers that are pollinated by night flying insects such as moths.

Flowers have different shapes for pollinators – beetles and butterflies need landing pads but pendulous flowers attract expert fliers such as bees and bats, which hover as they feast.

Nature never ceases to amaze me.

Nicky Wharton

30 September 2013


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