Study Shows That Perfume Or Bright Clothes Do Not Attract Bees

   According to field experiments performed by researchers at Tulane University in New Orleans, foraging hymenoptera (bees) are not attracted by perfume or bright, floral-patterned clothing. The study was presented at the annual meeting of the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology, which this year is being held in New Orleans.

   Recommendations given to venom-sensitive patients to avoid such things are based

on theoretical concerns and are in contrast to the recommendations made by bee keepers and entomologists on clothing colors to avoid, the researchers said.

   They held a controlled field trial using 100 assessments, in a factorial design, to study the influence of visual cues (bright, floral pattern vs dark, no pattern) and olfactory cues (presence vs absence of perfume) on the propensity of foraging hymenoptera to alight upon clothing. Experimental treatment combinations were observed at sites with high and low foraging activity.

   Foraging bees rarely touched clothing (7/100 assessments) of any type even with high foraging activity (up to 20 honeybees/minute) in adjacent control plots. The few bees that contacted clothing tended to contact dark clothing and clothing without perfume, but those observations were not statistically significant. Among social insect species, only a single honey bee and paper wasp made contact with clothing.

   The researchers' data fail to support current recommendations discouraging use of perfume or bright, floral-patterned clothing in patients with hypersensitivity to hymenoptera venom. Discrepancies between human and insect senses of vision and olfaction almost certainly account for these results, the researchers said. "Perfumes may even be repellent to insects seeking specific plant-derived odors, as most scents in perfumes are synthetic," they concluded. Further evaluations should empirically investigate recommendations made by entomologists to avoid dark clothing due to a theoretical risk of being targeted by colony defenders when a nearby hive has been disturbed, the Tulane researchers said.