bees, honey and other sticky subjects

Monday, August 15, 2005

Bumbles prefer Van Gogh

Researchers at Queen Mary, University of London, asked three colonies of bumble bees that had never seen real flowers what they think is the most realistic flower picture. They showed them reproductions of four paintings:

  • Van Gogh's Sunflowers
  • Paul Gauguin’s A Vase of Flowers
and two colourful works without blooms --

  • Patrick Caulfield’s Pottery
  • Fernand Leger’s Still Life with a Beer Mug.
They preferred Van Gogh's Sunflowers. The bees were attracted by vibrant colours in all the paintings, but chose those with flowers much more often.

And the lesson to be learned?

Professor Lars Chittka, of Queen Mary’s School of Biological and Chemical Sciences, who led the study, said the attraction to flower paintings was easy to explain in evolutionary terms. He believes that human preferences for certain colours have an evolutionary origin -- scientists have shown that colour vision evolved in our primate ancestors alongside a fruit diet.


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