“The honey bee has two compound eyes and three simple eyes…and they need ALL of them!
The word “”compound”” comes from the Latin word “”componere””, which means “”to put together””.
The compound eye is not called that because it is complex (although it is). It is “”compound”” because it is comprised of many single eye units synthesized to make one composite eye.
In the picture above, each round hump is a separate eye unit (photoreceptor cell). Each unit sends it’s view of the image to the brain of the bee. The brain combines all the images of thousands of eye units, and forms a detailed picture of it’s subject.
Notice the hair strands between each of the plates of the eye. These hairs aid in determining wind direction and flight speed of the bee!
It is believed that the bee can see images in extreme detail when closer than 3-4′.
Compound eyes are especially adept at “”locking on”” to anything that is moving quickly.
We often hear experienced bee keepers hark on the importance of slow and careful movements in the apiary.
The two large eyes of the honey bee see your every move,
so remember…SLOW and CAREFUL.
Another aspect of the honey bees’ eye compared to the compound eyes of other insects is the ability of the honey bee to see color!
The honey bee has THREE simple eyes called “”ocelli””.
Calling them “”simple”” does not imply that they are not complex, they are far from that.
“”Ocelli”” comes from the Latin word “”ocellus”” which means “”little eye””.
The ocelli of the honey bee is similar in design to the human eye due to it’s single lens.
The ocelli are used for navigation and for maintaining stability in flight.
Thus the honey bee is unimpeded in it’s busy activities of scouting and collecting nectar, pollen and propolis.
Another benefit of the bee’s UV capabilities is it’s ability to detect those flowers, whose nectar guides can ONLY be seen in Ultra violet light!
The sunflower, primrose and some pansies are examples of such flowers whose nectar guides can only be seen in “”bee violet”” light.
Nectar guides are patterns in flowers which help honey bees (and other pollinators) detect where the nectar and pollen are.
At times these patterns are able to be seen by the human eye, but to pollinators, the assistance that these guides give is invaluable to their productivity.
Nectar guides serve both the pollinators and the flowers. They help the flowers continue their reproductive cycle (pollination) AND they help the honey bee find their food source!
Honey bees and flowers serve each other in a symbiotic relationship unparalleled in nature.
In the picture to the right, one can see a picture of what a flower might look like (yellow flower) when a bee uses it’s compound eyes.
The bluish flower to the right might be what the bee sees with it’s ocelli (under UV light). Notice the darkened center of the flower (nectar guide).
Simply amazing, isn’t it?!”