What Bugs See

To veer off from the vacation photos, I thought I’d talk about bugs!  I’ve been working in the garden a lot and watching the myriad types of insects drawn to the various flowers blooming all over, and it reminded me of something amazing that I learned last year.  The way flowers look to us is not what most insects and birds see.  The flowers are bright and showy, but they offer up visual clues to pollinators through colors and patterns that can only be seen with eyes that see UV light.  Humans can’t.  We can’t assign colors to UV light in the way that we understand them, so when photographing with UV light we substitute our colors to show the change in patterns.  The markings on the flowers are guides to where the pollen is, like lights and painted lines on airport runways.  Just as baby chicks’ mouths are large and brightly colored to show mom and dad where to put the worm, especially on the inside as they gape and wait to be fed, so have flowers made sure that the pollinators get to the right place for pollen!  The differences between what we see and what insects see can be startling; there is a whole hidden world right before our eyes, just as there are supersonic and subsonic sounds that we cannot hear.  Elephants make subsonic noises that other elephants can hear miles away, but we aren’t aware of it.

Below are photos taken with and without UV light by the brilliant Norwegian scientist-cameraman Bjorn Roslett.  Remember that the UV colorization is man-made to show the difference in patterns.  More technical information can be found at his site here: http://www.naturfotograf.com/UV_flowers_list.html , with lists of types of flowers and what approximate color changes there are under UV light.

 

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