The phrase “busy as a bee” came about for a reason. Bees never seem to stop. And we are all better off because of their tireless search for nectar, which makes them prime pollinators. This weekend, I watched one bee as it attempted to get into each flower on our two, tall Rose of Sharon plants. That’s a lot of flowers to visit. But according to my trusty Botany for Gardeners, a bee’s habit of flying back and forth between flowers of the same species is what leads to successful pollination. That, and a few incentives. First, there’s the nectar, usually found at the base of a flower — meaning the bee has to brush past the flower’s reproductive organs to reach the jackpot. Then, to make it easier for the bee (or any other pollinator) to get to the nectar, many flowers have nectar guides–markings that say “this way to the good stuff.” Those guides can be stripes, patterns, dots, or heightened color, etc.
In the photos below, a bee is lured inside a Rose of Sharon flower by the darker red stripes on each petal and the darker red inner circle that forms when all the petals come together at the base of the flower. The bee is already carrying pollen from the other Rose of Sharon flowers it has visited. It then burrows down to the base of the flower to reach the nectar — and in the process drops off some of the pollen it is carrying and picks up a bit more. Then, it heads up and out — off to pollinate the next flower.