The A, B, C’s of Bees: Eyes


Bee eyes are kind of wonky. Like most insects, they have a set of compound eyes.  But they also have 3 simple eyes.  Why all the eyes?  Let’s look into it…

Compounding it

The two compound eyes are located on either side of the bee head and are really hundreds of little eyes (called ommatidia).  Each ommatidium has its own lens and looks in a different direction to take in a piece of the overall picture.  These single pieces obtained by each ommitidium are added up to constitute the whole picture in the viewing field.

Compound eyes are good at seeing things in great detail when they are 3-4 inches away.  The are also very good at locking on to fast-moving objects. Bee compound eyes can also see color, which is not true for all insects.

For a little fun, try going to B-Eye to see how a compound eye works.

Photo courtesy of extension.

Photo courtesy of extension.

Simplifying it

The three simple eyes on a honeybee are called ocelli.  These eyes are similar to human eyes because they have a single lens.  The three eyes form a triangle on the top of the bee’s head.

The simple eyes help the bees navigate and maintain stability while they are flying. They probably also help a bee detect a predator attack from above.  Simple eyes allow bees to detect ultraviolet light.  This means bees can see clearly even when there is a cloud cover and they can detect the nectar guides of some plants.  For example, pansies and sunflowers sport nectar guides that are only seen with UV light.

As you can see, for a bee, the eyes have it!


Blogging my way from A to Z as part of the 2015 April A to Z Challenge!  My theme for this year:  Honeybees



The A, B, C’s of Bees: Eyes — 3 Comments

  1. Brilliant! We raised bees for a few years. But I didn’t learn as much in those years as I did from exploring your blog just today. Thanks for sharing your adventure and your learning!

  2. Pingback: The A, B, C's of Bees: Johnston's Organ - Five Maples Farm

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