How many eyes does a bee have?

Today Cristina ran in the front door shouting “COME LOOK”. There were six pairs of small bees mating on the floor of our front porch! It was early spring and it was the first emergence of the mason bees who live in the small holes in our porch chairs. They were so engrossed in their activities, we were able to shoot some great macro photos with our Laowa lens. When we looked at the photos we both said, “what’s that on top of their heads?” They sure looked like eyes. Hey wait a minute, how many eyes does a bee have?

How many eyes do bees have?
Can you see how many eyes do bees have? If not, read on!

How many eyes does a bee have?

If, like us, you were wondering how many eyes do bees have, the answer is simple. Bees have five eyes! There are two compound eyes that you can see clearly with your own eyes. But there are more eyes that you can’t see without a good macro lens or a microscope. So where are they?

How many eyes does a bee have? Five!
How many eyes does a bee have? Five!

How many eyes do bees have on top of their head?

Bees actually have three smaller eyes on the top of their head, directly between the two larger eyes. These are simple eyes, called ocelli (the singular word is ocellus). Bees have one central ocellus and two dorsal ocelli that form a little triangular pattern pointing toward the front of the head. Unlike the two large compound eyes which can form complex images with hundreds of tiny lenses, these ocelli eyes only have a single lens and are used for detecting movement, and perhaps determining orientation with the sun.

Bees eyes close up
Bees eyes, close-up of a mason bee’s eyes

More about bee eyes

When you think of bees, you probably imagine honey bees. But bees are an incredibly large and diverse group of insects. According to the USGS there are more than 20,000 known bee species worldwide and about 4,000 of those species are native to the US. However, the honey bee is not native to the United States! (They come from Europe.)

Some bees actually have hairy eyes with tiny hairs protruding from their large eyes! Unlike a human eye, bees’ eyes can see ultraviolet light. As a result, many flowers have evolved ultraviolet patterns to attract a worker bee to their pollen. Bees are important pollinators and you can help support them by making a native pollinator garden.

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