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The Honey Bee’s Superpower: UV Vision

The Honey Bee’s Superpower: UV Vision

Mother nature has been playing matchmaker between bees and flowers since the dawn of time. Bees need nectar to survive and flowers need bees to transfer their pollen so they can pass on their genes, demonstrating nature’s reciprocal dance of mutualism. 

So, how do bees and flowers find one other? 

Bees and flowers have developed a strategy based on luminous visuals. The brilliant colors of flowers help target their areas of nectar, which honey bees perceive through ultraviolet light. Special pigments absorb UV light and paint a bullseye in the center of a flower, luring the bee to the tasty flower—akin to a neon sign insisting “land here!” 

See like a bee. 

Many of the bullseye patterns on flowers are invisible to humans because they are only perceptible through UV light. Bees can also see the colors blue, green, purple and violet—the latter two being their favorites. Although bees can barely distinguish the color red, they do visit red flowers because they can see the UV markings inside the flower. 

Bees also have the ability to see color at rapid speed. Their color vision is the fastest in the animal kingdom—five times faster than humans. If we are driving on a highway past a field of flowers, we see a blur of color. But bees can distinguish individual flowers while traveling at a high rate of speed. That’s why honey bees have no problem pollinating moving flowers.

Curiously, bees have two sets of eyes adapted to perform different tasks simultaneously. The two large eyes at the side of their head (known as compound eyes) are used to identify shapes, colors and UV markings, while the three small eyes on the top of their head provide navigation and orientation while in flight.

Everbee’s ultraviolet effect

When we embarked on creating the first protective feeder to help save the honey bee, our initial research focused on testing with UV light to ensure that the design of Everbee frequently attracts honey bee traffic.

Everything about the entrance to Everbee is designed with honey bee vision in mind. Mimicking the ultraviolet, bullseye patterning of flowers, Everbee’s entry acts as a beacon to honey bees.

UV filter of a flower and painted hexagons
Photo captured during the early days of Perpetual Pollen's UV testing, showing the bullseye pattern of a flower beside our UV painted illustrations.
A colorful future awaits.

The visual talents of bees is just one group of adaptations bees have mastered to uphold their status as the undisputed heroes of the pollination world. Many ecosystems and creatures depend on bees to survive and thrive.

We are one of the many species who hinge on the health of honey bees. Without bees, 80% of the crops we consume wouldn’t exist! This may include some of your favorites like blueberries, apples, almonds, cucumbers, avocados, and pumpkins, just to name a few.

Although Perpetual Pollen is nowhere near the evolution of the honey bee, we’ve spent thousands of hours engineering Everbee to make a real impact on the health of honey bees for generations to come.

We hope you join us in creating a brighter future for our fuzzy pollinator friends.