2019 BSJ Blog

Superblooms: Photo and Pollinating Ops

by Xandria Ortiz 

 

Spring is here, and thousands are flocking to super blooms all around California. Thousands of people and bees, that is. Super blooms are defined as excess blooms of flowers. They are typically a rare occurrence, arising about once a decade; however, there have already been two in the past three years due to record precipitation in 2016-17. Additionally, tourists now travel to witness these vast fields of flowers and get the perfect photo for social media, destroying the habitat in the process.

These super blooms have occurred all over the state, but some popular locations include Walker Canyon in Lake Elsinore, Antelope Valley California Poppy Reserve, and Diamond Valley Lake. Unfortunately, the large influx of visitors has proven to be detrimental to super bloom areas since visitors often stray from a designated path and end up trampling the flowers and other vegetation.

According to the Washington Post, some of these vibrant super blooms are visible to satellites orbiting Earth. The various colors of different super blooms around California are clearly very appealing to people, but studies show that bees can only see a blue color range (Deheyn 2017). This raises the question of what attracts bees to flowers visually. Blue is not a typical color found in nature, however, studies show that some flowers have evolved blue rings to attract bees. Flower petals express different colors depending on the nanostructures on their surfaces. Some flowers have developed a level of disorder in their nanostructures that results in a blue-hued halo within the flower, best seen against dark colors but present in flowers of a variety of base colors. The origin of this evolved trait is unclear, but it most likely allows the flower to better attract bees. In one study, scientists presented bumblebees with a variety of flowers with and without the blue halo characteristic, and those with the blue present attracted the bees more effectively.

Regardless of whether it is blue flowers or artsy Instagram photos gets them there, pollinators and humans alike are swarming to California’s super blooms. If you haven’t visited one yet, they are expected to occur until July. However, remember to stay on designated paths to preserve these amazing natural phenomena for other people and pollinators!

 

Reference List

Deheyn, D.D. (2017). How flowers get the blues to lure bees. Nature vol. 550, pp. 467-468.

Kannan, S., Forgione, M., & Krishnakumar, P. (2019, April 10). Where to find the Superblooms in Southern California. Retreived from https://www.latimes.com/projects/la-me-where-to-find-super-bloom-southern-california/

Livingston, I. (2019, March 21). California’s superbloom is the best in years, so vibrant it can be seen from space. Retrieved from https://www.washingtonpost.com/weather/2019/03/21/californias-super-bloom-is-best-years-so-vibrant-it-can-be-seen-space/?utm_term=.fffc064abb20