Bees love certain wavelengths of blue florescent light, OSU researchers discover

About 500 species of bees – like this sweat bee – live in Oregon, and just like honey bees they need appropriate flowers for pollen and nectar. Photo by Andony Melathopoulos. Photo courtesy Oregon State University

CORVALLIS, Ore. – Researchers at Oregon State University discovered that bees love certain wavelengths of blue fluorescent light.

The university says this discovery can help maintain bee populations in the United States.

“The blue fluorescence just triggered a crazy response in the bees, told them they must go to it,” OSU’s College of Science physicist Oksana Ostroverkhova said. “It’s not just their vision, it’s something behavioral that drives them.”

The findings could help a farmer attract many bees to get his or her crops pollinated.

Researchers created traps for bees using stage lighting filters and fluorescent paint. They used a diverse set of landscape background colors in the traps, but blue fluorescent traps proved to be the most popular by a landslide.

They learned bees preferred blue fluorescence in the 430- to 480-nanometer range over that in the 400- to 420-nanometer range.

“Fluorescent light is what’s seen when a fluorescent substance absorbs ultraviolet rays or some other type of lower-wavelength radiation and then immediately emits it as higher-wavelength visible light,” OSU described in a news release.

Bees have three types of photoreceptors in their eyes: blue, green and ultraviolet receptors.

Some flowers give off vibrant colors and patterns that are only detectable with UV sight. They help pollinators like bees find nectar.

OSU’s findings were recently published in the Journal of Comparative Physiology A.

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