How Many Eyes Do Bees Have?

A bee shares several physical features with those of other insects, including wasps and ants. Much of the body is covered with an exoskeleton made from a special material called chitin. The body also has three sections, namely the head, thorax and abdomen. 

In spite of the many striking similarities, sizes and shapes of body parts can vary from one insect to another, hence, that of a bee is unique in its way. The eyes are another distinctive feature — how many eyes does a bee have, and why?

Bee Anatomy: The Head

The head serves as the most significant part of the bee’s anatomy. It has sensory structures to perceive the environment and also acts as the hub of all the information it gathers. Most importantly, it’s an input center for food, visual perception, gustatory (sense of taste), and olfactory (sense of smell).

Several important features are also found in the head of a bee. These include the eyes, antennae, and mouthparts. Internally, it serves as a vital housing for the body’s most crucial organ — the brain. 

The Eyes of a Bee

Bees have two types of eye — simple and compound

On the front of the head are three dots set out in a triangle formation — the simple or ocelli eyes. Compound eyes are two over-sized eyes situated on either side of the bee’s head. 

In total, bees have five eyes. Bizarrely, the two eyes on either side of the head are hairy. They’re also very noticeable compared to the simple eyes. Their distinct features and size have an essential role to play. 

Why Do Bees Have Five Eyes?

The two compound eyes detect movement, color, and they also polarize light. They, therefore, help bees to perceive and also see the world around them. These eyes also specialize in recognizing patterns, a useful trait in the identification of plant types, as well as other bees. 

Simple (ocelli) eyes help discern light intensity. More specifically, they help the bee to navigate using sunlight. They serve as a natural compass but in a unique way. It allows the bee to determine its position in relation to the sun, hence, find its way home.

The ability of bees’ eyes to detect light as well as distinguish between shapes has a vital role to play in their daily lives, especially when in danger. It keeps them living and going about their activities safely. For instance, if a predator approaches a bee, the three ocelli eyes can help sense the threat. 

Fascinating Facts About Bee’s Eyes

If you thought that the roles of bees’ eyes are limited to movements and light alone, then you’d be mistaken. Here are some remarkable realities about them:

Bees Can Detect Motion Faster than Humans

Unlike humans, bees are very sensitive to even the slightest movements — that we might not be able to see. Humans can only recognize actions that take longer than 1/50th of a second. In contrast, bees can see motion that occurs in 1/300th of a second. As a result, they’re able to detect movements in a field of flowers that would appear still to humans. 

Bees’ Favourite Colors Are Purple, Violet and Blue

Unlike those of humans, bees’ eyes are more sensitive to specific colors, namely blue, violet and purple. This trait is advantageous in the sense that it makes flowers brighter than their surroundings, hence, they become attractive to the bees. 

Hairs Grow on Bees’ Eyes

One fascinating fact about bees is that the two large compound eyes possess tiny hairs. Anecdotal evidence suggests that these hairs help to recognize the direction of the wind. They could, therefore, play a role in navigating through windy conditions. 

Hairy eyes also allow bees to collect as much pollen as possible. Research suggests that the hairs are distributed in such a way, any trapped pollen remains away from the eyes — prompting easier removal.  

Can See the Sun Even When It Is Cloudy

Other than for navigation purposes, Bees’ eyes have the ability to detect polarized light or light that has been filtered for purposes of finding food. With this attribute, they can see the sun even in weather conditions such as the presence of heavy clouds. A study conducted on this topic revealed that, indeed, bees could learn polarization patterns of artificial flowers to help them obtain food. 

Summary

Bees are a fundamental factor in our ecosystem. Without them, flowering crops would no doubt fail. Aside from that, bees are the only insects that produce food that we can eat, and many health benefits derive from it as well. 

The important role that bees play in our environment is attributable to many things, one of them being the fact that they have five eyes. These eyes not only have fascinating features, but they also play many vital roles in the daily activities of bees. 

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