Bees and eye sight - How do bees see?

FG Contacts Feel Good Team
Tuesday, 12 May 2020 Share this blog: Facebook Twitter LinkedIn Copy link Copy Link

Vision is essential to bees as they must hunt for flowers to find nectar and pollen. Because of this, they are well adapted to be able to seek the right plants.

We examine how a bees eyes are structured and the function of each set of eyes.

How many eyes does a bee have?

A bee has five eyes in total. Two larger eyes known as compound eyes which are the most visible and can be found on the sides of the bee’s head. Each of the compound eyes is made up of thousands of individual lenses, that’s why you’ll note bee’s vision is often depicted as looking like several pieces of a puzzle put together. The role of these lenses is to recognise colours, shapes and what can be seen in the immediate environment. As the lenses are all laid out at different angles, the image transmitted into each lens forms an overall image of the bee’s surroundings.

Less obvious, are the bee’s ocelli eyes which sit on the top of the bee’s head in a triangle formation. Unlike compound eyes which have multiple lenses, the ocelli only have one single lens each and are also referred to as the ‘simple eyes’. The ocelli are used by the bees for navigation and orienteering in relation to the position of the sun.

Where are a bees eyes?

A bee's eyes are located at the sides (compound eyes) and on the top section (ocelli) of the head.

Can bees see colour?

Bees can recognise most colours as humans do, and have adapted well to see blue, green and ultra-violet light. 

What colour are a bee’s eyes?

Black is the most common eye colour for bees, although there are some species of bees that have different coloured eyes. Blue Carpenter Bees have stunning blue eyes, while silver Leafcutter Bees have pale green eyes.

Do all bees have 5 eyes?

Bees are not the only insects with up to 5 eyes. Wasps, grasshoppers and dragonflies also have 5 eyes.

Do bees have hair on their eyes?

Honey bees have hairy eyes, although the same cannot be said for all species of bees. The hairs may have a clever function. Researchers have observed that the spacing between the hairs on a honey bees eyes is the same as a single grain of dandelion pollen – a highly common pollen collected by bees. As a result, the honey bee is able to keep the pollen suspended above its eye, allowing for its legs to comb through the hairs and collect particles when the honey bee is grooming. Honey bees are able to carry a significant proportion of their own body weight in pollen due to these cleverly places hairs.

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