The colour desire of pollinators influences the colour indicators of the flowers for pollination; Flowers compete with bees; flies compete with coloration

Plants and animals have created a mutual relationship so that the former can successfully pollinate. Previous studies suggest that animals may see colors differently, which affects their preference for plants.

These studies usually focus on bees, but flies are the second most common pollinators. Hence, it is also important to study how they perceive and use color to affect flower pollination.

The study, “Fly Pollination Drives Convergence of Flower Coloration,” published in the journal New Phytologist, examines how they see colors for pollination and how flowers pollinated by flies developed their color signals.

(Photo: Pixabay)
Fly pollinators’ preference for color can affect the color signals of flowers for pollination, study results

Flowers designed to meet the preferences of pollinators

According to an article in the Journal of Comparative Physiology, honey bees have preferences for certain colors. In particular, flowers with blue tones attract them the most.

On the other hand, an article in Current Zoology suggests that hoverflies distinguish yellows better than blue. The paper also reported that hoverflies have an innate response to the color yellow.

Flowers and other plants are based on their appearance according to the preferences of the pollinators, as they rely on attracting them to reproduce. Phys.org reported that the study was conducted in Australia to understand flower development to accommodate animal pollination.

The team collected data from different places in the country, such as the natural habitat of bees and flies where they forage, to understand how different insects might affect color signal development between flowers.

They used a spectrometer to measure how insects perceive the spectrum of different wavelengths of light reflected from flowers. Then they created a model of the spectral signatures of plant flowers based on animal perception that enabled the team to quantify the evolution of signals.

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Plants share preferred colors to attract more pollinators

One hypothesis explaining the evolution of flower color is that it was driven by competition so that they have different colors to increase their chances of being identified and pollinated. However, another hypothesis called facilitation shows the results of the study.

This explanation suggests that plants can share preferred color signals with insects to attract more pollinators. This means that they evolved depending on the pollinators. For example, flowers pollinated by flies in Victoria are yellowish-green, while orchids pollinated by bees are typically blue or purple.

The results showed that flies can distinguish different flower colors and plants share the preferred color of their main pollinator. It can be seen on Macquarie Island, where flies are the only pollinators. The flower colors are in the range of the preferred fly colors, which corresponds to the competitive strategy.

However, when both bees and flies are present in an area, flowers pollinated by flies will filter out the bees to reduce their presence. In the Himalayas, flowers only need flies with long tongues to get the nectar.

The team concluded that fly color vision can help pollinate crops as alternative pollinators. This also shows that planting different types and colors of flowers attracts more pollinators, such as hoverflies.

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