Many homeowners wonder if painting their house yellow will attract unwanted bee visitors. The short answer is that bees are somewhat attracted to the color yellow. However, there are many factors that influence where bees choose to build hives and forage, with color being just one small part. Keep reading to learn more about the science behind bee vision and color preferences.
How bees see color
Bees have different color detection systems than humans. They see ultraviolet light, which allows them to spot nectar guides on flowers. Bees also see more blue and green shades than red ones. Their color vision is strongest in the blue-green, violet, and yellow areas of the light spectrum. Overall, bees have poor color vision compared to humans, but they can differentiate between major colors like blue, green, and yellow.
Do bees prefer the color yellow?
Many flowers that bees pollinate have yellow centers, including dandelions, sunflowers, and daffodils. Therefore, bees often associate the color yellow with sources of pollen and nectar. However, bees do not exclusively seek out yellow flowers. They visit blooms of all different colors as they search for food. Bees are attracted to flowers based mainly on scent rather than color cues.
Some studies show bees have a slight preference for yellow over other major colors. Researchers have observed that free-foraging bees will visit groups of yellow flowers more often than blue, violet, or white flowers when all are present in equal amounts. The preference is subtle though, not an overwhelming attraction to yellow only.
Why are flowers often yellow?
Many flowering plants have evolved to have yellow pigments in areas that contain pollen or nectar. Since bees can see yellow well, the color serves as a target to draw bees toward the center of the flowers. Yellow markings contrast with the darker colors of petals and leaves, creating a bullseye visual signal. Flowers that are most successful at attracting pollinators like bees have an evolutionary advantage over other flowers. Over time, the flower colors that bees prefer become more common.
Do bees only forage on yellow flowers?
No, bees do not limit themselves to just yellow flowers. Honeybees visit flowering plants across the color spectrum, including whites, blues, purples, reds, and more. Since they rely on flowers for food, bees inspect many blossoms to find the most plentiful sources of nectar and pollen. Flower color is just one of many traits that bees use to identify preferred flowers, along with shape, scent, and texture. Bees associate certain colors with nutritional rewards, but they are generalist foragers that feed from diverse plant sources.
Are yellow houses ideal hive locations?
While foraging bees show a slight preference for yellow flowers, a yellow house does not necessarily attract a new bee colony. Bees choose hive locations based mainly on protection from the elements. They prefer enclosed spaces like hollow trees, caves, attics, or gaps in infrastructure. The color of a potential nest site is insignificant compared to having a secure, waterproof cavity of the proper size. Paint color alone rarely draws bees to build permanent hives on houses.
Will a yellow house entrance attract bee swarms?
There is little evidence that bees swarm on yellow houses more than other colored houses. Swarming occurs when an existing bee colony reproduces and sends out a new queen with a group of worker bees to start a new hive. The swarm rests in temporary locations while scout bees search the area for ideal permanent cavities. Since swarms are focused on finding a suitable nesting space, they do not gravitate toward yellow house entrances simply due to color. The specific layout of a house entrance is more likely to pique their interest. Bees may pause on any color house with easy access into gaps, holes, vents, or soffits that could shelter a new hive.
Do foraging bees congregate on yellow siding?
Foraging bees visit many locations in their search for pollen and nectar. They tend to fly wherever flowering plants are abundant, rather than congregating on yellow house walls. However, some types of siding can accumulate pollen grains and nectar droplets from the environment. Broad, textured surfaces like rough wood or stucco are more prone to trapping plant debris than smooth siding. When bees encounter these pollen deposits, they may pause to feed on it. This is not a deliberate attraction to the siding itself, only a convenient snack stop en route to flowers. The color of the walls has little effect. Bees can and do rest on siding of all paint colors.
Can yellow houses increase bee stings?
There is no evidence that a yellow house leads to an increase in bee stings. Foraging honeybees and bumblebees are not aggressive unless harassed. They are focused on gathering pollen and nectar for their hive and try to avoid unnecessary stinging. Solitary bees are even less likely to sting around a home because they do not have a colony to defend. Since most bees around homes are passing through while foraging, yellow house color does not make them more defensive or prone to stinging. Avoid swatting at nearby bees and they will steer clear of people.
What about wasps and yellow?
In contrast to bees, some wasp species are strongly attracted to the color yellow. Yellowjackets in particular aggressively guard sources of sugars like flower nectar, ripe fruits, and human food. They scavenge for sugary foods to provide energy for their meat-eating larvae. If wasps repeatedly encounter food around yellow objects, they begin to associate yellow with dining areas. Yellow picnic tables, trash cans, and playground equipment can become wasp hotspots. This is why many outdoor yellow items are now sold in alternate colors. However, painted wood surfaces like yellow siding do not offer rewards to wasps. They may investigate initially due to the color association, but move on quickly without establishing colonies.
Tips for discouraging bees on yellow houses
Here are some tips to make a yellow house less appealing to foraging bees:
- Choose a pale, muted yellow color over bright, bold shades
- Avoid flower boxes below windows and eaves
- Keep the yard mowed and landscape tidy to deter bees seeking nest sites
- Seal any small gaps in siding, vents, and soffits
- Repair damaged areas in window and door frames
- Keep sweet foods and drinks covered and indoors
Following these steps will discourage bees from lingering and nesting around any house, no matter the paint color.
In summary, most bee species are only mildly attracted to the color yellow compared to other flower colors. Yellow houses do not provide a suitable nesting habitat or major nectar source for bees. While foraging bees may briefly pause on yellow siding, they will not be drawn to congregate or build hives there. Wasps have a stronger color association with yellow, but again do not nest on yellow painted wood surfaces. Ultimately, many factors influence bee and wasp activity around a home, with color being just a minor consideration. Any house, yellow or not, can be made less hospitable to bees and wasps by identifying and removing potential food sources and nesting sites.