Humans are blind to ultraviolet light, but bugs can see it, and boy are they lucky! Ultraviolet florescence photography gives us a hint of how flowers look to pollinators.
Insects see the world very differently from how humans see it. They can’t see red light like we do, but can see ultraviolet wavelengths invisible to the human eye.
Credit: Craig Burrows
We’ll never be able to see the world exactly as they do, but a special type of photography called ultraviolet-induced visible fluorescence photography can give us a hint at how awesome the world looks to bugs… especially the world of flowers, which emit their own florescence after being exposed to ultraviolet light.
California photographer Craig Burrows has done some amazing work with this type of photography, soaking the flowers in ultraviolet light, turning it off, and then snapping a photo of the flowers emitting the light they’ve just absorbed with a special lens filter.
It’s obviously not exactly as bugs would see the flowers, as they are seeing the UV light reflected off the flowers under the sun, not fluorescing in the afterglow of a darkened room, but it gives you an idea.
A 2019 study found the parts of the flowers that reflect UV light are important advertisements for attracting pollinators.
The UV reflecting vs UV absorbing (UV dark) parts of the flower, help the bees navigate between petals and pistils (or stamens), helping them find the pollen, a 2009 study found.
(Source: Return to Now)