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Be Lured Into Nature’s Wonderland


Ever wondered what a bee’s version of Disneyland would look like?

Well perhaps Disneyland isn’t the right analogy but a magical fantastical land!





A bees wonderland would be filled with predominantly shades of purple and blue flowers, in every conceivable shape and size.

Bees’ seem to see purple flowers more clearly than other colours and that’s because they see UV. Imagine going into a nightclub and the colours around the UV lights glow so brightly and have so much WOW in them that you just can’t help but touch them. This is what flowers do to attract pollinators to them.


This year I decided to create a flower strip especially for bees it’s basically

an avenue of mainly purple flowers. The phacelia and flaxseed flowers are blooming

at the moment and it’s alive with bumblebees.



In January I literally threw seeds down onto this patch, along with their seed heads

and the winds and rain tumbled them and trampled them naturally down. This

particular soil is so depleted of nutrients I went for a Phacelia blanket of green

manure. I bought a bag of organic golden flaxseeds from the health shop I work at

and threw them in the mix too. A Purple Toadflax plant which I bought at a

community garden fayre and a few Verbena’s I planted from seed and now it’s

become a purple wonderland.


The vibrant dance between bees and purple flowers is a result of millions of years of

co-evolution. It all boils down to what bees can see and what flowers have to offer.

Unlike humans, bees have a different colour vision spectrum. They have a keen eye

for blue and ultraviolet (UV) light, while red appears dark to them. This means purple

and blue flowers, which reflect these shorter wavelengths, stand out brightly to a

bee.

Here's the fascinating part: bees are seemingly pre-programmed to find these

colours attractive, but it's not just about aesthetics. Many purple and blue flowers

tend to be nectar-rich, providing the bees with a sweet reward for their

visit. Especially Borage, Honeywort and Comfrey. These 3 particular flowers are

tubular and hang downwards, this protects the sweet nectar from being diluted by

rain and dew and so are vessels of pure nectar.


Over time, flowers have learned to exploit this by producing pigments that create a

UV halo around the nectar, acting as a bullseye for bees. This makes finding food

sources more efficient, and flowers with these colours benefit from increased

pollination.This is not to say bees ignore other colours entirely. They can see yellows and

oranges, and some flowers use clever UV patterns to guide them to the nectar. But

when it comes to pure attraction, purple and blue reign supreme, making them a

bee's favourite colour.


So, the next time you see a bee buzzing around a cluster of lavender or

cornflowers, remember it's not just a pretty sight – it's a million-year-old partnership

in action.

A bright world of wonder and sweet nectar – bee paradise.


A bees list of their most favourite purple flowers.


Honeywort, Cerinthe - This is become one of my most favourites and plant them every year. In milder climates they withstand the winter too. The one inch long tubular flowers produce honey-flavoured nectar. As the plant matures, the bracts change from green to purple to blue.


Borage - Borage is one plant that bees find irresistible, as the flowers produce so

much nectar and pollen. Honeybees feed on the nectar, while others, such as

bumblebees, visit for nectar and pollen. 



Phacelia – Is used as a green manure fixing nitrogen to the soil. It is planted for bee

regeneration programmes. Produces an abundance of both nectar and pollen which

is particularly attractive to honeybees. Also very attractive to short-tongued

Bumblebees such as Bombus terrestris and B. lucorum. These purple rosette flowers

produce nectar continuously throughout the day.


Flax/Linseed flowers - There might be a hidden benefit to linseed. The plant contains linseed oil. This is another name for flaxseed oil. This is very high in Omega 3 fats. Bees need Omega 3 for development of their nervous systems (like humans). Some recently published research indicates that insufficient Omega 3 fats leads to cognitive decline in bees and there is a possibility that this may be implicated in Colony Collapse disorder.


Comfrey – Like the Honeywort the Comfrey flowers are tubular and hang

downwards. Holding the nectar safe from dilution. Honeybees and bumblebees love

Comfrey flowers.


Foxglove - Foxgloves are an important source of pollen for bees. The species has

evolved to be especially attractive to long-tongued bees such as the common carder

bee. The brightly coloured flowers and dark spotted lip attracts the bee, while the

lower lip of the flower allows the insect to land before climbing up the tube.


Cornflowers - The Centaurea genus includes a number of species that are popular with bees, including cornflowers (Centaurea cyanus), mountain cornflowers

(Centaurea montana) and common knapweed (Centaurea nigra).


Hebe - Hebe plants are a great choice for gardeners looking to attract and support

pollinators like bees. With their vibrant colours, delicate blooms, and produces nectar

and pollen, Hebes provide an ideal habitat for these important insects. Please note

Hebe’s do need space as they grow into bushy shrubs.


Buddleia – The sweet honey-like scent of the thousands of tiny flowers

compressed into a torch is adored by nearly every pollinator. They also need

space as they grow fairly large but can handle pruning well.





Lavender - Producing blue, sweetly aromatic flowers. Its essential oil may assist

bees in ridding themselves of Varroa mites (the mites appear to hate the smell of

Lavender.)


Chives - Let your chives flower and they will provide welcome nectar for

bumblebees, honeybees, mason bees and leafcutter bees. The pretty purple flowers

can also be eaten and used to add a splash of colour to salads.


Catmint - Honeybees and other pollinators flock to the small but numerous blooms

of catmint plants in droves. Nepeta its latin name has a long flowering period and is a

tough perennial that regrows and blooms after being cut back. The hard part is

protecting it from cats who get high on rubbing their fur on the leaves. I have had to

put cages over mine to try protect them.


Hyssop – Korean Mint - Although it’s a short-lived perennial, it will self-seed freely

and it’s thought that an acre of this plant will support more than 100 hives. As it

flowers later in the season, it helps to build up honey reserves before the winter sets

in.


Verbena - Verbena bonariensis is a tall, arching plant that sits above many other

perennials in the summer months. With its small clusters of scented flowers, it

produces nectar freely for honeybees, bumblebees and butterflies, as well as other

insects.


Heather - Heathers are compact plants with small but highly rewarding flowers for

bees. Calluna species provide nectar from midsummer to autumn,

while Erica species are a valuable source of winter nectar.


Alliums - All Alliums attract pollinators and are a favourite with bumblebees,

honeybees and butterflies. Blooming in early summer with giant flowerheads formed

of masses of nectar-rich purple flowers.


Viper’s Bugloss, Echium vulgare - Echiums produce nectar throughout the

day unlike most plants that have short windows of opportunity for the bees. Echiums

have an unusual feature where the nectar is protected inside the flower from either

evaporating or being washed away.


TOP TIP: Avoid double flowers

When creating a wildlife garden, choose single flower varieties. Double forms

often have large, extra petals that render the pollen and nectar inaccessible.



 

Something alittle more personal

In South Africa the Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow flowers are also a big bee attraction with their sweet nectar in the purple-est of flowers.

Each flower transitions from deep purple to lighter purple, to white and then die. Some flowers change colour when they have been pollinated to tell the pollinators that there have already been visited to that particular bloom, I would imagine this is one of those flowers. Its at night that these flowers release their scent, ranging in aroma from a heady musk to the sweetest of aromas which fill the summer evenings just after the big thunderstorms of where I grew up.


These were my father's favourite flowers.






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