When we started our first hive, we read that the bees home-in to certain colors. Having some hobby/craft paint around, I painted the hand-hold on the front of the hive with fluorescent yellow/green paint. “There,” I thought foolishly, “they should be able to find the hive with no trouble.”
The bees spent the entire first year scrubbing it off! I mean, they chewed, worried, worked, and had paint-scrubbing parties day after day until it was gone. After they erased this offense, they stopped hanging out on the front of the hive box and behaved entirely bee-like. Anyone ever look at why they hate some colors? They most certainly hated this one.
Has anyone else ever heard of this? I know that bees see a different portion of the color spectrum than we do, but yellow-green is clearly visible to them and is a color they are accustomed to. In fact, the entire summer world is green or yellow-green. I wonder if the fluorescent aspect of the paint was bothering them.
After I read this comment to my husband, he suggested that perhaps the bees are genetically programmed to avoid bright colors that might alert predators to the hive. In other words, maybe the bees thought the bright paint was like having a target painted over their front door. But he also pointed out that hive odor is the most distinguishing aspect of a thriving hive, and if we humans can smell a hive so easily, predators can certainly detect it at great distances. So why bother with a little problem when you have a much bigger one?
Lots of hives are painted bright colors and I’ve never heard of this before, which leads me to wonder if there is some component of fluorescent paint—not found in regular paint—that induced them to remove it. That seems reasonable except I always spray the top of my drone frames with fluorescent green paint and that paint has never been removed. The frames are in the dark, of course, so the bees wouldn’t see them glow. But if it’s an ingredient of the paint that offends them, wouldn’t they have removed it?
Has anyone else had an experience like this? Does anyone else have a theory? You can bet I will be trying this as soon as I get some paint—I am really curious.