Snapple Capped the Buzz on Bees

I Got a Hair in My Eye

Well knock me down with a feather, this was news to me. Today I was working diligently at the computer drinking my Diet Snapple Raspberry Tea.

I always read my caps with their clever tidbits of little known facts, don’t you?

And the cap today said, “Honeybees have hair on their eyes.” Surprised? I was, so I looked it up and found a source on Google that had this to say.

After all, I was looking for the reason why bees had hair on their eyes. It certainly could have nothing to do with pollen collection, right? The little ladies would not be able to see for their flight back to the hive. Even if you do possess five eyes, gotta be on the lookout for what might make you its dinner after all.  So let us see what the author of the article wrote as an explanation and see in if 1904 he was right.

“In my work on Compound eyes I noticed that the entire eye is covered by unbranching hairs; and in trying to find some use for these I was entirely at sea until I noticed that, although the young bees have their eyes well covered, the field bees have almost every hair removed.”

“The hairs are so dense in young bees that is difficult to conceive of the bee seeing anything clearly; but there is no such obstruction for old bees.”

Notice this shot clearly shows the three simple eyes also.

“It occurred to me that possibly there is some division of labor which we find.”

“It has been shown that a young bee can get along without sight, since none of its actions require acute vision, and the presence of these hairs indicates that it is probably nearly blind.”

“Can we not, then, explain the confinement of the young bees to inside duties of the hive by the fact it cannot do anything else?”

The writer goes on to speculate, “There maybe some other structural difference between young and old bees; but it seems to me that these small hairs must be of great importance to the colony in compelling the bees to do the different kinds of work.”

“Old bees can build comb and feed larvae, but do so only when it is absolutely necessary; but a young bee can do nothing else.”

From a periodical called Gleanings in Bee Culture. Volume XXXIII, January 1, 1904 from the A.I. Root Company, Medina, Ohio.

Now I know why all my bees appear to have shiny, hair free eyes, or do I? I did search to find out if all bees have hair on their eyes, and it was shown to occur in bees other than honeybees, but I could not find if all bees experience this.

So this led me to the question of the quality of microscope that they had back in the early 1900’s. It appears that they did have decent optical microscopes up to about 1500x, but did not develop an electron microscope until 1931, or the scanning electron microscope until 1935. So I am guessing the author to the article had a pretty good view, much better than my camera images.

I did learn much more about bee eyes that I found intriguing. Those hairs are called setae and they are all over every insect, and is like a skin to help the insect feel their environment. This may have answered the question of every bee having hair on the eyes.

And how many eye facets? There are thousands of facets per eye, possibly three to five thousand or more individual ommatidia in one compound eye. So any wonder why catching flies and bees is difficult?

I have to admit to not having extreme closeups of honeybees. I am allergic to bees and I am more willing to get close to the Carpenter bees because I will be very unlikely to get stung. Males can not sting and females do it so very rarely. I love learning about bees but do wish they were not bad for my health.

I have lots of photos of many varieties of bees, but none as close or from an appropriate angle to see the eyes as you have seen here with the Carpenter Bees. These bees do appear to have hair around the eyes, but no hair on the eyes that can be seen at this magnification. I guess the writer from 1904 was a keeper and/or scientist and examined his bees very closely. He was doing a study on compound eyes, that is why I am guessing. I could have purchased the book to find out.

My next tea drink also had a cap that said, “The muzzle of a lion is like a fingerprint – no two lions have the same pattern of whiskers.” Not going to check this one out first hand though.

Next post is Word 4 Wednesday on November 16th. Your word this week is Texture and Pattern. Find some texture and pattern in those GBBD and Foliage Follow-Up posts and join in here too. Not too hard to find texture and pattern in garden plants or landscapes.

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About Garden Walk Garden Talk

I love to photograph, paint, draw, design, garden, travel the world, and pass on a few tips and ideas that I learned through experience as a Master Gardener and architect. I am highly trained in my field and enjoy my work each and every day. I garden in Niagara Falls, NY in zone 6-B. Find me at: http://gardenwalkgardentalk.com
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26 Responses to Snapple Capped the Buzz on Bees

  1. 7aces/Darla says:

    Now we know who the worker bees really are…great informative post!

  2. Karen says:

    Who would ever have thought bees have hair on their eyes? Thank you for doing all the research on this topic. Now I’ll never look at bees in the same way, they are really fascinating creatures.

  3. nhgarden says:

    Oh I hate it when I get a hair in my eye… Love your Bee photos! Awesome post!

  4. Interesting article and amazing photos!

  5. Great post. Bees really are endlessly fascinating aren’t they? It’s a shame you’re allergic, I think you’d have fun being a beekeeper. With the honeybees it’s actually quite easy to see the setae on the eyes of the drones, as their eyes are much larger than the workers. Occasionally, if I get a crisp enough shot of the workers in the hives you can see the little hairs too. The other interesting thing is how bees perceive color (or perceive some colors to be an absence of color as the case may be). It was something we considered when choosing the paint colors for our hives.

  6. That’s so interesting!! It seems really weird to have hair on your eyes. But I guess if you’re a bee, not having hair on your eyes is weird!

  7. Malinda says:

    Truly amazing photos – so crisp and clear and gorgeous! I have a thousand bee shots and none so amazing. What lense are you using? Tripod? Okay, the information was fun too!

  8. Donna, what outstanding photos and thanks for all the research and info!! An amazing post, I loved it!!

  9. One says:

    I thought those were eyelashes to attract the opposite sex. Great captures!

  10. Kevin says:

    Wow. I thought the words were amazing, but the photos left me speechless. You do amazing work.

  11. Victor Ho says:

    Great story. Good information. Wonderfully detailed photos. Why are there compound eyes in the insect world? You only need one/two covering the 180 degree field of view to avoid threat. The brain processes the image and then signals danger. What does the compound eye add? Binocular vision gives you depth of field to estimate distance. The human brain is topographically setup to be more sensitive to motion/threat. Understanding the bee brain and topographical mapping of their visual cortex would be fascinating. Why do humans have eyebrows? Ah, a mystery…?

  12. How interesting. You took a rather mundane subject and turned it into an interesting read. Not sure I “needed to know” this information, but am glad that I do. I’ll be looking at the bees in my garden to see if they are old or young. Too bad the hairs don’t go grey like ours – that would be an easy way to tell.

  13. bumblelush says:

    Great post and gorgeous pictures! I love the ones where the wings are fluttering.

  14. b-a-g says:

    Donna – Great photos and interesting research, seems like you left no stone unturned …. and to think it all started from a bottle cap.

  15. Wonderful research and pictures…wonder if this is where the phrase “hairy eyeball” came from…and I wonder if the bees naturally lose the hairs as they age much like we lose hair…really fascinating tea you are drinking!!

  16. Funny how one fascinating statement can take us on a journey of research and discovery. Great information and even more spectacular captures of those carpenter bees!

  17. I admire how you read the Snapple cap and really pursued the topic. I predict that you enjoy life and your mind will remain young and agile for a long time :-). I love the busy little bee wings in the second photo–so cute.

  18. Cat says:

    Who knew!? Really interesting post!

  19. Marguerite says:

    Hilarious that your tea started this intriguing investigation. Loved the macro shots of all the hairs, it’s really amazing the images we can get with cameras these days.

  20. Just the idea of hair in the eyes made me blink. Reminds me of some days when my contacts just never feel quite right and I blink all day. You have quite a collection of excellent bee shots. They are amazing little critters, aren’t they?!

  21. Kala says:

    Very interesting post. And you capture some superb details in these images.

  22. Indie says:

    Okay, now I really want to know the reason for these eye hairs! Somebody must have done a graduate study on it somewhere, right?
    Oh the mysteries that we still do not know! Such a fascinating post, though! (and quite funny about the lion whiskers..)

  23. Love your bee photos! I had no idea that bees had hair on their eyes…very interesting! I always learn something new when I read your blog!

  24. Good heavens, hairy eyes?! Seems very counter intuitive! Wonderful photos, and informative post.

  25. Niki Jabbour says:

    These are amazing photos!! I always try to capture similar images, but have never come close to you! Thanks for sharing them.. Niki

  26. These are simply amazing photos and so much information. I adore bees, and who knew about the hair on their eyes? Thanks for the lesson and the wonderful macro photos. Really good stuff. 🙂

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