Humming the Blues
Perhaps you’ve noticed it too – bees spend a great deal of time on blue flowers. Cornflower blues. Purple blues. Blues in spikes, balls and nectar-filled cups. Of course, when the blues are so gorgeous, who can blame them?
Scientists have done some research as to why bees seem to go for blue and it turns out that blue fluorescent light is a "Come and get it!" beacon for bees. Like humans, bees have three kinds of receptors in their eyes. We both have one for greens and one for blues. The third for people is for reds, but in bees it's for ultraviolet light.
The patterns and colors of flowers appear different for a bee with their UV vision than for us gardeners. And the blue wavelengths have proven to be ultra-attractive.
Check out some of the favorite bee blues in the gallery below.
Echinops, or Globe Thistle, is a fun shape to have in the garden. Bees and butterflies both adore it. When Echinops blooms, there are small florets on the end of each little spike in the ball.
Echinops is easy to grow in full sun and average soil. But it's not a fan of being transplanted, so select the location well.
Spikes and spikes of flowers cover Veronica for much of the summer, making bees particularly happy. You'll see them buzzing about from flower to flower giddy with the nectar buffet. This beauty is 'Royal Rembrandt'.
Did you know that most bees are not likely to sting you? Unless they're getting crushed, they're not interested in people. Most stings are from wasps.
Centaurea is another blue that bees go for. Imagine what that exotic-looking flower would look like in UV light! It might look exotic, but Centaurea (also called Bluet or Bachelors Buttons) is a care-free addition to the garden. It'll be happy in part shade or full sun and produces lots of flowers throughout the season.
Allium, ornamental onion, is a perennial that comes in many shapes and sizes – each one appealing to bees.
The variety here is Azureum and it's corn-flower blue is quite lovely. Allium works well when planted in clusters or among other flowers with a contrasting flower shape.
Of course Lavender appeals to our human senses (that aroma!), yet it's a great choice for buzzing bees too. Each wand teems with small blue flowers, each one a cup a nectar waiting to be supped.
Once established, Lavender freely flowers. It prefers full sun and a dryer location. Wet soil will deter growth and even kill the plant.
One of the things bees need is nectar sources for early spring. Pulmonaria Smokey Blue fills that demand quite nicely.
Dainty, pink-tinted blue cups emerge early – often before the snow is entirely gone. And it keeps blooming for weeks and weeks.
It's one of the bee-friendly flowers for the part to full shade garden too.
Last, but in no way least, is Nepeta (Catmint). Whether you plant a larger variety like Walker's Low (here) or something more compact, like Purrsian Blue, the bees will adore your garden! In our beds there are many many choices for all kinds of pollinators and still, the Nepeta is humming with activity. You can shear it back for a second bloom too.
The gallery really just touches the tip of the blue ice berg. Check out the Perennials for Bees page for more ideas: Agastache Blue Fortune, Bee Balm Blue Moon, Salvia Caradonna, the humm goes on!