What Colors do Bees See and which Attracts Them?

Whenever I saw bees, I used to think, is there any particular color of flowers that attract bees? Or if they like bright colors or pale colors? Or do they even see colors?

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Do bees see color or is it black and white?

Bees can see colors! The color family they see is yellow, green, blue and ultra-violet light. But they can’t see shades of red and orange. Bees love bright colors and are very attracted by them!

VIOLET (380 – 450 nm)RED (620 – 750 nm)
BLUE (450 – 495 nm)ORANGE (590 – 620 nm)
GREEN (495 – 570 nm)WHITE (390 – 750 nm)
YELLOW (570 – 590 nm) 

Colors: Is it the only deciding factor for bees to select flowers?

Bees do not depend upon color for identifying flowers to collect pollen and nectar. They identify the flower by its shape, certain shapes attract them more than the bright color of the flower.

To verify this fact, we researched plants that are pollinated only by bees. We selected more than 50 plants. We noted each plants leaf color and then compared it to the visible spectrum of bees and here are the results:


The results are surprising and gripping. According to data, out of our 58 plants, 22 plants are white-colored and white is the color bees cannot see! 15 plants are yellow-colored. An interesting fact is that the blue-colored plants which are pollinated by bees are in the minority. Even when bees can see blue color and remember it. This data is evident enough to prove that bees do not select flowers by color.

Do bees have any favorite colors?

The favorite colors of bees are yellow, blue, and violet. And bees hate colors like red, black, and brown. Now there are two situations which may affect you directly when wearing colors to which bees respond:

  • The first situation is when you wear bees’ favorite colors. They will start buzzing around you if you wear their favorite color. Bees will assume that you are a big mobile flower. A perfume imitating flower scent can make the situation more confusing for them. And when they realize that you are not a flower, they get irritated and may sting you.
  • The second situation is when you wear colors that bees hate. Red appears black to bees. These hardworking bugs take these dark colors as a sign of a predator like bears. Thus, they can attack you to protect themselves. So, it is advised that in areas prone to bees, we should wear subtle and pale colors.

Why do Bees see UV rays?

By 1927 it was clear that bees can see colors. Besides colors, they can also see UV radiations. Bees and many other organisms can see UV light because the UV light sensitizes the cone cells in their eyes.

There is no exact information about when and who discovered the fact that bees can see UV light. But according to a journal published by the royal society of Victoria, Alfred Kühn published a paper in 1927 in which he explained the power of bees to see the UV radiations.

This picture depicts the visual capacities of bees under light of different wavelengths. Тhe first picture is а flower under white light as we humans see it. The second picture is under UV light. It represents the way honeybees see it. The third picture of the same flower is under infrared light. Bees cannot see red light, so the flower and surroundings all look similar in this picture.

Every organism sees only those colors or wavelengths of light that stimulate its cone cells. And bees are also trichromatic like humans. It means they have three different cone cells to get stimulated by three different lights. Blue, green, and ultraviolet light can stimulate their cone cells. All other colors are the only mixture of these three colors to the eyes. Therefore, they can see UV light. Red color wavelength does not trigger the cones in bee eyes, so these organisms cannot see red color.

How to stay unseen by bees?

Now you know that wearing some colors can make you vulnerable in front of bees. The best way to stay out of the vision of the bees is to wear pale colors. Bees cannot notice pale or grey shades. Thus, they often ignore these shades. If you have planned to spend your weekends in the countryside or near a park, you should better wear pale or grey shades. These do not trigger bees to attack or follow you.

Why do beekeepers wear white?

Beekeepers always wear white clothes because bees do not notice this color due to their visual spectrum. Bees are least attracted to this color. Thus, it reduces the chances to be stung by bees.

Bees became aggressive around dark colors. It is the result of evolutionary tendencies. Dark colors such as black & brown are associated with natural predators like bears that can snatch their honeycomb. Thus, bees and wasps often show strong abhorrence to these colors. Even if they do not attack someone directly wearing a dark color, the person is still on the radar of bees, and a single action can trigger them to sting.

On the other hand, bees do not find white and pale colors as intimidating as bright colors like yellow, green, and blue. Thus they are least attracted to these colors. Therefore, beekeepers always wear white to keep bees calm when they fetch honey.

Do Bees, Wasps, and Bumble Bees have similar vison?

Bees can see beyond the visual spectrum of humans, and their sight is 5x faster than humans. We will consider three closely related species, bees, wasps, and bumblebees, they see the world the same way. Wasps and bumblebees can also see UV light and are unable to see red and orange.

The reason that all these insects have similar visual capacities is that all three animals belong to the same phylum Arthropoda. It is the scientific name of the insect family. Animals with similar features, structures, and capacities are kept in one family. Bumblebee, honeybee, and wasps have similar body structures and functions. Therefore they have similar eye structures. Similar structures provide them with similar capacities.

Can bees see in the dark?

Bees have a more extended visual spectrum than humans. Does this rule apply to all dimensions of vision? Are bees able to see during nighttime?

Yes, some species of bees can see and fly during nighttime or in darkness. And only Indian carpenter bees is an obligate nocturnal bug. But it does not apply to all species of bees. Only some tropical bees can see and fly during nighttime. Most bees are diurnal , but they adapted the night vision to get an advantage over other bee species in search of food.

In the tropics, many flower-species blooms in the night time. Therefore, some species of bees started to fly in the night time to eradicate competition and relish the nectar with ease. According to a journal published in Science Direct Indian carpenter bee the only obligate bee that uses landmarks and night vision to find nectar. Other bee species need the help of moonlight, but the Indian bee can roam around even in the darkest of nights.

Do bees and humans have similar vision?

Humans and honeybees both are trichromatic, however bees’ visual perception is quite different from humans. There are three major differences between humans’ and insect’s vision. The first one is bees can see UV light, and the second is the visual spectrum. Insects can see the light of wavelengths 300 to 600 nm whereas humans are able to see the complete elements of white light from 400 nm to 750 nm. The third point of difference is bees have compound eyes.

The primary reason for the difference in bees’ and humans’ sight is the anatomy of the eye in both organisms. Humans have two eyes, whereas bees have two compound eyes and three ocelli. The Ocelli are motion sensors. These are single lensed photo-receptors. They do not form the image of the object instead they detect the motion.

In addition to the ocelli, bees have two large compound eyes. Compound eyes are made of small units called ommatidia. Each ommatidium is connected to a bundle of axons. Axons are transmitter cells of the brain. An ommatidium is somewhat similar to the structure of the human eye. It also has cornea like mammals, optic nerve, and photoreceptor cells.

Source: Wikipedia

Each ommatidium captures an independent part of the image. The brain of honeybees processes the image from the independent pieces of the image. In this way, these ommatidia work together to work as one functional eye. This makes image processing faster in bees as compared to humans. In addition to ommatidia, the ocelli along with their motion-sensing capabilities, make the bees and insects even faster.

Historical background

An Afro-American zoologist Charles Henry Turner proved that bees see colors. He published a piece of evidence that bees can see colors and distinguish between different shapes. In addition to this, he developed procedures to test the color recognition ability of honeybees.

There is no exact information about the experiment he conducted. But he published more than 70 papers on invertebrates and vertebrate anatomy. He did not get recognition because of the strong racism present in America at that time. Later on, Karl Von Frisch confirmed Turner’s work by his experiments in 1914, and in 1973, he was also awarded the Nobel prize for his work.

Karl’s experiment is well-known. He used placards to demonstrate the fact that bees can identify blue color among different shades of grey. He made a big placard having one blue block and different shades of grey. Then he applied honey to the placard and kept it open area. All the bees landed on the blue card every time.

Frisch repeated the experiment several times, and he got the same result every time. In each trial, bees sat on the blue card even when there were no treats like honey.

Why did honeybees always land on the blue card?

Bees can see blue, violet, green, and yellow with a tint of green precisely. Honeybees cannot see red and orange colors. By the efforts of multiple zoologists, it was proven that bees can see colors. But Karl’s experiment led to a new discussion that why honeybees always chose blue placard?

The white light is the combination of seven lights of different colors. The colors we see in the world is due to the white light. Whenever light falls on an object, it absorbs some part of the white light, and some of it gets reflected. We perceive the color of reflected light as the color of the object. The wavelengths of light decide the color spectrum that will be visible to the organism. Different colors are the manifestation of different wavelengths of light.

Bees see the light in wavelengths of 300 to 600 nm. In comparison Humans can see in a wavelength from 400 to 750 nm. The human vision spectrum falls under the visible light. Thus we can see colors from red to violet.

But vision spectrum of bees is much different from humans. The part of visible light that falls under the vision spectrum of bees include yellow to violet wavelengths of visible light in addition to ultraviolet light. Bees cannot see red wavelength, so they are unable to see red and orange color.


Just in case you need some quick information on how these bugs see the world through their eyes, we have a summary of the complete article to make your scanning easy.

  • Bees can see colors.
  • Charles Henry Turner was the first person to discover this fact.
  • But his work remained unnoticed because he was an African descent.
  • Karl Von Frisch, an Austrian scientist confirmed Turner’s claim and got a Noble prize for it.
  • They can see blue, green, violet, and yellow.
  • Honeybees cannot see the red and orange color.
  • They can see ultraviolet light. Alfred Kuhn proved this fact and this claim is backed up by the Royal Society of Victoria.
  • The UV radiation falls in the visual spectrum of bees and the red color does not fall in the visual spectrum of bees. Therefore, the honey bee can see ultraviolet rays but not red color.
  • Bees can see, differentiate, and remember colors.
  • The bugs are attracted to bright colors.
  • Bees do not like dark colors like red, brown, and black. It makes them aggressive.
  • When choosing flowers, bees do not go after flower color. They choose flowers according to their shape.
  • Some species of bees can also fly during the night-time. But they are not obligatory nocturnal animals, and they need moonlight to locate the path.
  • But Indian Carpenter bee is an exception to the whole bee community and is an obligate night animal. It even doesn’t need moonlight. According to research, it has developed night vision permanently.
  • Bees have 5x times faster vision than humans, and their visual capacities are best in the animal world.
  • Bees have two eyes and three ocelli. The eyes form the image, and the ocelli sense the motion.


Hey there, I'm Jan! Bees are my passion since I was a little kiddo. My grandpa always said that passing knowledge to new people is the most honorable and meaningful thing to do. So here I am, passing my knowledge to you. Protect the bee, respect the bee!

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