Favorite Colors

Do you have a favorite color? If you do has it ever occurred to you that there might be an advantage to being attracted to certain hues? There haven’t been very many studies done on color preferences but it is indicated that animals and insects that can perceive color are often attracted to specific colors.

Humans, apes and some other primates have trichromatic vision which allows them to distinguish between green, red and blue. A new study conducted by Ohio University researchers André Fernandez and Molly Morris      ( published on-line in the May issue of the American Naturalist) suggests that the partiality for the color red developed as a foraging advantage in the gathering of ripe fruits among certain monkeys. This development of a preference for the color red led to the sexual selection of mates with red/orange hair and skin coloration. The greater a species ability to distinguish the red/orange region of the spectrum the higher the probability that it will evolve into a species with red/orange coloration.  What began as a desirable color preference useful in finding food evolved into a social trait which persists outside the original purpose.

In a study of the buff tailed bumblebee, (Bombus terrestris), by Dr Nigel Raine and Professor Lars Chittka from Queen Mary’s School of Biological and Chemical Sciences it was found that bees that innately preferred violet over blue were more successful in gathering nectar. The researchers exposed bees that had never seen flowers to artificial flowers in blue and violet and noted their preferences. The bees often preferred the violet flowers to the blue flowers even though they were obtaining no nourishment from either. These same bees were then turned lose to forage among real violet and blue flowers. It was found that the colonies of bees with a strong preference for violet flowers gathered 41% more nectar than the colony with the weakest preference to violet flowers.

Violet flowers produce more nectar than blue flowers. Those bees with a genetic preference for violet over blue were more successful than those without that genetic bias.

Studies with humming birds suggest that while they may be initially attracted by red coloration, they will not return to red flowers that do not provide an ample reward of nectar. Given the choice of a white flower that produces an abundance of nectar and a red one that is less productive they will choose the white one.

Check out your garden and see what color flowers you are planting it may have some meaning in the general scheme of things. Personally I plant a lot of blue and violet.  I know that Lisa hates yellow flowers. Hmm?