An urban legend has surfaced that claims wasps and bees are keen to red hair in comparison to other common hair colors.
A BuzzFeed article title "17 Surprising Facts About Redheads" states many redheads reported bees and wasps are more likely to sting them. The article cites a historian, author and professional redhead Jacky Colliss Harvey.
Harvey wrote a book on the "Natural History of the Redhead." In it, she claims redheads are more likely to be stung by bees and adds that perfume smells different on them (due to unusually acidic skin).
KREM 2’s token redhead Jen York set out to verify the claim.
KREM first reached out to MC1R Magazine (MC1R is the gene that is mutated to cause red hair). They said it has not heard of the claim that redheads are more likely to be stung.
Twitter user "Redhead of the Day" said "Everyone is attracted to redheads. Why should bees be any different?"
A quick Google search offered no help and there are not any scientific studies on the topic, so KREM reached out to experts at Washington State University.
Dr. Steve Sheppard, an entomologist that studies genetics and the evolution of honey bees, said the color red is not actually seen that well by bees and wasps. That also goes for dark colors, which is why beekeepers wear white suits.
The chart below depicts what humans can see versus the vision of a bee. Even though humans can see more colors, bees and wasps have a much broader range of color vision.
Bees and wasps' ability to see ultraviolet light gives them an advantage when seeking nectar. Many patterns on flowers are invisible to humans. As is depicted in the chart, red is not really in bees and wasps’ vision range.
Sheppard added that bees are more attracted to smell as opposed to color. For example, the smell of a banana will alarm a bee, which sets off an alarm pheromone. Sheppard said certain chemicals, like perfumes or repellant, can also alarm a bee.
It appears there is no specific study for a link between perfume smelling different on redheads. Experts said there really is no connection between bees and wasps to the color red.
Based on the information provided to KREM 2 by bee experts, we are concluding that the rumor is false.
Sorry gingers, it looks like this is an urban legend!
Dr. Steve Sheppard
Jen York (a natural redhead)