What Attracts Bees

What Are Bees Attracted To?

Bees are an important part of our ecosystem. Because of their pollinating abilities, we’re provided with numerous fruits and vegetables that are essentials to our diets. Bees, however, can sometimes feel attracted to humans, or more precisely, our picnic baskets, but why is that?

Knowing what attracts bees is important if we want to help protect them, as well as having an abundant garden. Let’s take a look at what bees are attracted to and why some may find your colorful picnic blanket attractive.

What Are Bees Attracted To?

Foraging bees use a variety of senses when it comes to finding food or water sources. They use their senses of smell, sight, and touch. Here are some of the things bees will consider traveling from their hive for:

Colors

Bees can see almost the same colors as we humans are able to see. They can distinguish pretty much any color, ranging from orange and yellow to blue and violet.

What they can also see is ultraviolet—this is something humans can only dream of. They can’t, however, see red, so those flowers simply look black and unattractive. Bees seem to be most attracted to colors such as blue, yellow, and purple.

Some experts also suggest that bees are attracted to specific color patterns. Apparently, plain flowers don’t look so intriguing as those sporting several colors. Some flowers use ultraviolet colors to help guide the bees to the nectar.

The nectar veins on the flower can only be seen in ultraviolet, which is the reason humans don’t see them. The bees, nevertheless, can easily see them and thus choose such flowers.

Sugar

Nectar is a crucial part of most bees’ diets, especially male bees who rarely, if ever, feed on pollen because they don’t need the protein. Bees require the sweet liquid of nectar to keep their energy up. It’s basically sugar and it’s what the bees use to make honey.

Looking at the facts, it’s actually no surprise that bees feel attracted to sugary stuff. Anything that they can associate with a flower, they’ll fly to.

This could be a perfume that smells sweet and flowery, or that sweet, sugary soda you’re drinking. It doesn’t stop at perfumes and sodas, though. Bees will also find fruits enticing, such as watermelon or pineapple, especially since they sport attractive colors.

Sweat

Some bees are also attracted to sweat, these are—unsurprisingly— called sweat bees. These bees are very small and often go unnoticed until they sit on our perspiring limbs.

The salt and moisture in our sweat is an important component of a sweat bee’s diet. Fortunately, they rarely sting, unless you aggravate them, and a light brush with your hand will move the bee from your skin.

How Plants Attract Bees

A bee is a plant’s best friend—it harvests one plant’s pollen while fertilizing others, ensuring that the plants continue to bloom. Pollen is another important part of a female bee’s diet; it’s where they get the proteins needed for survival. It’s especially important for queen bees, who need it to produce eggs.

The foraging bees leave their hive to find and gather pollen and nectar. Once on the flower, they fill their pollen baskets, which are located on their hind legs, and return to the hive. They won’t eat it until later, where it’s transformed into bee pollen.

Once back at the hive, the foragers transfer the collected pollen to the other worker bees, who then place it into cells. Here they mix it with nectar and saliva, thus creating bee pollen.

bee and honeycomb

How exactly do flowers attract the bees? The flowers actually work together on this task, as opposed to competing with one another.

If we look at the light spectrum, a bee’s optical system is highly sensitive to blue, green, and ultraviolet wavelengths. Over time, flowers have evolved their blooms to match this spectrum, so that bees can easily notice them.

If you were to look through a bee’s eyes, flowers with ultraviolet hues look completely different than how we see them with the naked eye. Flowers also use their ability to produce irresistible scents to draw the bee closer.

So, as the flowers combine their irresistible appearance of scent and color, the bees can’t overlook them.

How to Attract Bees to Your Garden

Bees are valuable pollinating insects, who help crops grow. If you’re trying to grow squash, pumpkins, pears, and plums, among many others, making your garden a bit more attractive to bees will help significantly.

Believe it or not, creating a garden that attracts more bees is quite simple. Wildflowers are your best bet since these have evolved for attracting the bees. Once the bees are in your garden, they’ll soon notice all the other beneficial plants and mark it as a foraging spot.

Creating foraging places for bees is not only beneficial for your garden, but also for the preservation of bees. Some bee species, bumblebees in particular, are endangered and on the verge of becoming extinct. This is mostly due to the loss of their foraging places and habitat.

If you fill your garden with different types of wildflowers, they’ll provide enough nectar and pollen for bees. Look for wildflowers that bloom in early spring; this will help the emerging bumblebee queens.

bee finding pollen

Create potential nesting sites for her, by leaving a corner or two in your yard with tall grass. Piles of leaves or a hole in your compost pile may also attract her.

Choose flowers with one ring of petals, this will make it easier for the bees to obtain nectar and pollen. Look for those that have attractive colors, such as yellow, purple, or blue.

bee covered in pollen
A bee covered in pollen – CC Image courtesy of forestwander-nature-pictures

Are Bees Attracted to Humans?

If you stand in a foraging spot, the likelihood that the bees would prefer you over the flowers is slim to none. Bees are usually not attracted to humans. The only exception to this rule is the sweat bee, who’ll find you attractive if you’re sweating.

The only reason other bee species may be drawn to you is if you wore colorful clothing or sweet perfume. Although, be aware that a bee might find a toddler’s sticky cheeks attractive after they’ve indulged in ice cream.

Summary

Bees are not attracted to humans—only sugars, colors, flowery fragrances, and, for some bees, sweat. Bees are peaceful insects that we should work to preserve by making our gardens bee-friendly.

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