Now, a database showing how bees see flowers in ultra-violet!

A team from Imperial College London and Queen Mary, University of London, has created Floral Reflectance Database which will enable scientists to "see" plant colours through the eyes of bees and other pollinating insects.

Bees have different colour detection systems from humans, and can see in the UV spectrum. "This research highlights that the world we see is not the physical or the 'real' world - different animals have very different senses, depending on the environment the animals operate in.

"Much of the coloured world that's accessible to bees and other animals with UV receptors is entirely invisible for us. In order to see that invisible part of the world, we need this special machinery,"said lead researcher Prof Lars Chittka from Queen Mary's School of Biological and Chemical Sciences.

For their database, the researchers collected what's called "spectroreflective" measurements of petals and leaves of a large number of different plants. These measurements show the colour of plants across visible and invisible spectrum.

Users of the database can then calculate how these plants appear to different pollinating insects, based on studies of what different parts of the spectrum different species see, the 'BBC' reported.

In fact, the team has inferred what colours insects see by inserting microelectrodes into their photoreceptors, and by using less invasive behavioural studies. Seeing the world as insects may see it can reveal "landing strips" which are invisible to the human eye, the researchers say.

"Quite often, you will find in radial symmetrical patterns that there is a central area which is differently coloured. In other flowers there are also dots in the centre which indicate where there is basically an orifice for the bee to put in its tongue to extract the goods.

"Every third bite that you consume at the dinner table is the result of insect pollinators' work. In order to utilise insects for commercial pollination purposes, we need to understand how insects see flowers.

"We need to understand what kind of a light climate we need to generate in commercial glass houses to facilitate detection of flowers by bees," Prof Chittka said. Added team member Prof Vincent Savolainen of Imperial College London: "We hope this work can help understand how plants have evolved in different habitats, from biodiversity hotspots in South Africa to cold habitats of northern Europe."

The findings have been published in the latest edition of the 'PLoS One' journal.

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