Exactly How Many Eyes Does a Bee Have, Did You Say?


Carpenter Bee Head Showing Compound Eyes and Ocelli

Unlike human beings (and most other animals, for that matter), many insects have more than two eyes, and there are good reasons for this (discussed later in the article). So if you have ever wondered how many eyes a bee has, here is your answer – a bee has five eyes. But why so many? What are all these eyes for?

Why Do Bees Have Five Eyes?

A bee has a total of five eyes. Two are large compound eyes on the side of its head while the other three are known as ocelli, or ‘simple’ eyes, which are located in a triangle on the center of the head.

What are a Bee’s Compound Eyes For?

The bee’s compound eyes are made up of thousands of tiny lenses and are used to scan the immediate environment. They will see shapes and colors as well as any UV patterns on the flowers. Every tiny lens sees different angles but when each angle is pieced together, the bee sees the surrounding area from one perspective.

What are a Bee’s Ocelli Eyes For?

Unlike the compound eyes, the ocelli eyes have just one lens each. However, the eyes do contain numerous sensory cells. These eyes are used by the bee for navigation and orientation. They are also useful for detecting approaching predators.

How Do Bees See the World?

Bees see the world slightly different to humans, particularly in terms of the colors they can see. Humans see wavelengths that range from 390 to 750 nanometers. This range affects the colors that we see. Bees see wavelengths ranging from 300 to 650 nanometers, which means that they cannot see the color red. However, they can see ultraviolet light.

Vision is more important to bees than smell, and it is vision that they use to guide them to the nectar they are collecting. Many flowers have ultraviolet patterns designed to attract pollinators such as bees. The patterns are often referred to as ‘landing zones’ as they are similar to runway lights that guide airplanes into land. The patterns on flowers guide the bees to the nectar. Smell is something that bees focus on only when they are already close to a flower.

In Summary

Bees have five eyes; two of them are found on the side of their heads and are known as compound eyes. The other three ocelli eyes are arranged in a triangle shape on the back of the bee’s head. Bees use their eyes to see the world around them as opposed to relying just on smell to guide them around. Their compound eyes are comprised of thousands of tiny lenses which all see the surrounding area from a different angle. When all the images are pieced together, the bees see a whole picture. Ocelli eyes are used to help with navigation and orientation.


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Featured Image: Carpenter Bee Head Showing Compound Eyes and Ocelli – Muhammad Mahdi Karim – CC BY-SA 1.0

Anthony

Anthony is a content creator by profession but beekeeping is one of his great passions.

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