Bee Balm, Monarda didyma, and the color red

Posted by on May 2, 2013

Nature, in all her glory, has devised protections to sway the survival of the fittest. Like a perfect, protective shell shielding an unborn chick, nature is well-made.

However, there’s an inconsistency in nature that took me a while to finally figure out: bees loving red bee balm.

Intuitively I know in nature bees avoid red plants. It’s nature’s way to sway the survival of the hummingbird, protecting them from the bees. Hummingbirds are attracted to red; bees are not. This is why you don’t see bees hanging around a hummingbird feeder. Bees cannot see  the color red. Instead, red, to a bee, appears to be green, leaving most the red flowers for the hummingbirds, except bee balm, Monarda didyma. 

I have several varieties of bee balm in my wildlife habitat that are red, and the bees are around them as soon as the sun is up, and only rest when the sun sets. So how is that a bee sees my red Bee Balm?

In my quirky nature, where inconsistencies drive me mad, I had to know how bees were attracted to Bee Balm? If they can’t see the color red, how do they know to go there?

The answer was simple: bee balm has ultraviolet coloring mixed in which makes the flowers appear blue to bees.

So there was no inconsistency in nature after all. Nature had this covered, with me scratching my head until I finally did a little research.


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