Do cows lie down before it rains - just one of 7 tricky nature questions answered

Are bees actually attracted to yellow objects, do dock leaves really help nettle stings and does a red sky truly signal good weather is coming?

By Sue Wilkinson
Thursday, 16 May, 2019, 10:47
There is no proof rain is on its way

Researchers from GardenBuildingsDirect.co.uk have revealed the real answers to seven common nature questions to help Brits better understand the world around them.

The other natural phenomenon that have been explained by the experts include if sunflowers really follow the sun, why flies actually come indoors and whether plants can really harm dogs.

A spokesperson for GardenBuildingsDirect.co.uk said: “Many Brits suggest that bees will be attracted to yellow clothing, believe dock leaves are the perfect cure to nettle stings and swear that sunflowers really do follow the sun.

“So now that spring is in full bloom, we tasked our researchers to investigate whether some traditional ideas about nature, to see if they’re are simply old wives’ tales, or are in fact true and can be supported by science and evidence.”

1. Are bees attracted to yellow?

Bees are very short-sighted compared to humans and can only see flowers from a couple of feet away, actually using their sense of smell to find them from a distance.

So though bees may have a preference for yellow objects, as they can’t see red on the colour spectrum, Brits scared of getting stung by these insects should try not to give off strong odours such as sweat and stand still (like a large obstacle to fly around) if they encounter one.

2. Do dock leaves help nettle stings?

They do, but not how some people think – dock leaves are acidic not alkaline, the same as nettles, so don’t neutralise the venom.

Dock leaves should sooth the concoction of chemicals that nettles can release into human skin though, because enthusiastically rubbing dock leaves should release their moist sap and cool the affected area.

3. Do sunflowers follow the sun?

Heliotropism (the phenomenon of flowers following the sun) can be observed in young sunflowers to aid photosynthesis and pollination, but they usually face east once they’ve matured.

Hormones in a sunflower mean that cells grow faster in the shaded part of the plant, causing this region to become heavier and the flower to bend in the opposite direction – towards the sun.

4. Does a red sky at night mean good weather tomorrow?

“Red sky at night, shepherd’s delight. Red sky in the morning, shepherd’s warning,” goes the traditional British weather lore – or sailor’s, if you’re near the coast. This is generally true in the UK, as weather systems usually come from the west.

A red sky at night, occurring particles, typically means high pressure is heading over Britain from the gulf stream, so the following day will be dry and pleasant. But a red sky in the morning means the good weather has already headed east and will probably be replaced by low pressure, wind and rain.

5. Can plants harm dogs?

Yes. Tomatoes, potatoes, azaleas and lilies are just some of the common vegetables and flowers that can be deadly to dogs, so if you must plant these, make sure dogs can’t get to them while they’re unattended.

Unripe, green or raw potatoes can be severely dangerous to dogs, whilst tomato leaves, azaleas and every part of a lily could be poisonous to dogs and cause vomiting, diarrhoea or even death.

6. Why do flies come inside?

Flies circling around the house are probably trying to find an escape route back outside, rather than seeking indoor shelter, but things inside UK homes could be drawing them in too.

Common house flies and bluebottle flies are attracted to decaying organic matter such as pet droppings, meat and food waste – fruit flies seek out sugar such as in fizzy drinks, fruit and leftover vegetables.

7. Do cows lie down because it’s about to rain?

Not likely – cows lie down for many reasons, and there's no scientific evidence that rain is one of them