UV light – bees – and gardening

UV morning glory folded

UV light on a folded morning glory

Being a beekeeper, I’ve been fascinated that bees can see a broader spectrum of light than we can see with our eyes. Bees can see ultraviolet (UV) light and always wondered how flowers might look to them with their UV vision and why they like certain flowers. I read that some flowers have UV colored runways that attract bees and other insects to land on them and lead them toward the pollen and nectar in the center of the plant. This was created by the flowers to help with pollination. Ingenious isn’t it?  Mother Nature really knows what she’s doing! We see the sky as blue but bees see the sky as Ultraviolet (UV). What color is ultraviolet? Well, it is the next ‘color’ past violet in the color spectrum. We can see violet but ultraviolet is invisible to us because we don’t have cones in our eyes that can see UV light. As an artist, this is fascinating to me. I would love to be able to put on a pair of glasses (kind of like the glasses we get when we go to the 3_D movies but see UV light instead).

Then I read that one can spot tomato hornworms with a UV light. Ah ha! First I didn’t know that about hornworms and second I didn’t know there are UV portable lights! After investigating UV lights I got a UV flashlight just before the last frost came and ran down that night to see what the flowers looked like in the garden even though most of them were finished. I knew the hornworms were gone by then also so I’ll have to ‘see’ if that is true next year but it makes sense because white really glows with a UV light and the tomato hornworms have some white stripes on them.

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Anyways there I was holding the flashlight in one hand and trying to take pictures in the other hand in the cold night. There weren’t many flowers left but I got a few and the results were interesting. Some glowed in the UV light and some did not. I can’t wait till next year when the flowers are all out. I will be taking lots of pictures with the UV light. Of course I’m also anxious to see if the flashlight helps spotting the hornworms on the tomato plants!

Check this short video out:
Insecta Spectra
Simulated Butterfly and Bee vision

4 comments on “UV light – bees – and gardening

  1. Jill Foster says:

    How cool that is. OK, Im going to have to investigate UV flashlights!
    You got me curious.


  2. Sandy Powell says:

    So cool! I’ve also read that insects can “see,” or sense with their antennae, infrared and that is how they pick out sick plants to feed upon.


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