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Name: Mark
Status: other
Grade: other
Location:  WA
Country: N/A
Date: June 2006

Are bee attracted to any particular color. I am planning to purchase a yellow kayak and was told yellow attracts bees. Is there any truth to this?

Mark -

I think someone is trying an "old wives tale" on you. Bees have vision that is skewed to the blue end of the human visible spectrum. They do not see red. Having spent much time with bees, I have never noticed an attraction to yellow. They do, however, sense black (and since black is the absence of color, red would appear black to them) as a sign of danger. It has been suggested that this is an inborn reaction to the potential danger to their colonies from predators (bear and other furry animals) that are often black.

Their reaction to black would be related to the proximity to their hive. Their sting is generally used only for protecting the homestead. Bees are more prone to take exception to certain odors than to color. But this becomes a very complicated subject and is unlikely to be a factor for your kayak adventures.

Hornets, wasps, and yellow jackets are potentially a different subject... though many people wrongly lump these groups together.

Larry Krengel
a Keeper of the Bees

My source says bees don't see red, but can "see" even into the ultraviolet part of the electromagnetic spectrum that humans can't see into directly, i.e. neglecting fluorescence. On the other hand, there are other factors that play important roles. Lumping together bees, hornets and yellow jackets -- contrast between colors makes a difference even if the insect only "sees" black and white, and no color at all. Chemical attractants are important, some detectable by humans as flower fragrance, but I wouldn't be surprised if there were other chemical attractants humans can't detect. Bees "dance" at the hive when a forager returns to the hive. It is pretty certain that they are communicating direction and distance to the source. Soda and beer attract bees etc. -- the picnic effect -- probably due to CO2, but I don't think anyone is really sure. Perfumes seem to attract the attention of these insects, as well as mosquitoes. For more information see:

My guess is you should paint your kayak red, but remember contrast counts too, so it may make no difference.

Vince Calder

Bees are indeed attracted to yellow, blue, and white objects. They also are attracted to colors in the ultraviolet range that we cannot see. However, I doubt you will have problems with swarms of bees hovering over your boat. You may have a curious forager hover around it every once and a while, but it should not bother you unless you try to smash it. If you are really worried, get a red kayak instead. As near as we can tell (at least for honeybees), bees can't distinguish red from grey.

Aurora Toennisson

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