The Original Garden Visitor's Guide

Petals produce a ‘blue halo’ that helps bees to find flowers

Latest research using plants from Cambridge University Botanic Garden’s plant collection has found that several common flower species have nanoscale ridges on the surface of their petals that meddle with light when viewed from certain angles.
These nanostructures scatter light particles in the blue to ultraviolet colour spectrum, generating a subtle effect that scientists have christened the ‘blue halo’.

By manufacturing artificial surfaces that replicated ‘blue halos’, scientists, led by the Botanic Garden’s Director, Professor Beverley Glover, were able to test the effect on pollinators, in this case foraging bumblebees. They found that bees can see the blue halo, and use it as a signal to locate flowers more efficiently.

The findings are published today in the journal Nature.