How Bees Find Flowers – The Power Of Bee Vision

How bees find flowers is something often overlooked in the apiary world. Bee vision is undeniably fascinating, so let's have closer look at it together.

David Horstmann

— 5 min read

how bees find flowers

Bees rank amongst the top pollinators on our planet. As they forage nectar and pollen for their colony, they inadvertently cross-pollinate thousands of plants, trees, bushes, and flowers. When I stand at my hives and observe the workers bees buzz in an out of their colonies, I often found myself pondering over the question how bees find flowers they visit. Bee vision is something often overlooked in the apiary world, yet it’s undeniably fascinating.

Bee Vision Mechanics and Anatomy

For my bees and their colonies to thrive, they must locate and identify specific types of plants, gather nectar, and pollen. Afterwards they need to return to the hive and convey the location to their fellow bees. Nature has equipped them a specialized set of eyes made from compound eyes and ocelli eyes to accomplish these tasks successfully. But what exactly are these? Let’s delve into each part of bee eyes in detail.

Compound Eyes

The compound eyes are the largest set of eyes on the bees. Particularly prominent on drones, the compound eyes occupy a significant portion of a bees’ head. Comprising of numerous tiny lenses called ommatidia, these compound eyes collectively form a mosaic image of the bee’s surroundings.

Within the ommatidia are photoreceptors sensitive to ultraviolet light, which is imperceptible to humans. While us humans can see in a range of 700 to 400 nanometers, bees extend their vision from 600 to 300 nanometers.

Ocelli Eyes

Atop a bee’s head are three smaller eyes known as ocelli. Unlike the compound eyes, these simple eyes do not form intricate images. Instead, they are sensitive to light intensity and can detect polarization. Their main purpose is aiding bees in determining the position of the sun and navigating more effectively.

how bees find flowers is a powerful combination of bee eyes on a bees head for bee vision

How Bees find Flowers

Combining all the mentioned elements, bee vision is a sophisticated navigation method, allowing my bees to asses direction, distance and ultimately location of plants and flowers.

During foraging flights, the compound eyes provide the bees with a mosaic wide field image of their surroundings. Meanwhile, the ocelli eyes aid the in bees navigating their environment, sensing the direction and angle of the sun, effectively acting as a compass.

The photoreceptors, capable of perceiving UV light, assist bees the bees to find flowers. In addition to scent and colour, many plants are known to emit UV coloration patterns through chemical and physical structures.

Notably, flowers utilize not only scents, intricate colour and UV patterns, but also heat cues to lead the bees their way, as discovered by scientists from the University of Bristol.

Once bees have gathered all the information they communicate this vital knowledge to their fellow bees back at the hive.

How Bees find Flowers using the Waggle Dance

As the scout bees return to the hive, they communicate the location through a sophisticated dance language. This intricate form of communication encodes information such as direction, distance, and quality of the food source. The renowned «waggle dance» specifically indicates the direction to the food resource in relation to the sun, considering even the angle of the dance floor’s orientation.

Remarkably, the waggle dance conveys not only the trajectory but also the distance to the foraging site. Other foraging bees will decode this signal transmission, enabling them to depart the hive and efficiently find the new food location.

how bees find flowers using the waggle dance
Shake that booty!

There you have it – this is how Bees find Flowers!

In conclusion, how bees find flowers is an intricate interplay between bee vision, navigation, and communication. My bees are equipped with extraordinary capabilities, adding up to an astonishing level of cognitive abilities and social organization inside a bee hive.

Frequently Asked Questions

This section addresses common questions about the visual capabilities of bees and how it affects their interaction with flowers.

How does Bee vision differ from Human vision?

The structural and functional differences between bees’ eyes and human eses are notable. Unlike humans, who have a single lens per eye, bees possess compound eyes comprising numerous tiny lenses. While human vision excels at sharpness for distant objects, bee vision is better suited to recognizing patterns and movements up close.

What Range of Colors are visible to Bees and attracts them to Flowers?

The color spectrum that bees perceive starts from ultraviolet light to yellow, including some blue and green hues. Flowers that emit these colors can captivate the bees› attention and are more likely to be visited by them.

How do Bees perceive Patterns on Flowers, influencing their foraging Behavior?

Patterns on flowers, a lot of them invisible to humans, are readily detected by my bees thanks to an array of cool abilities. Plants emit UV patterns, heat signs, colour, scents and act as guides, leading bees to the flower’s nectar and pollen, thus influencing their foraging paths and preferences.

Are there certain Colours that Bees are unable to see?

Yes, bees cannot see colors in the red spectrum that are visible to humans. However, they can detect some flowers that appear red to us because these flowers reflect ultraviolet light, which is visible to bees.

In what Ways do Bees identify and locate Flowers with the most Nectar?

Bees use a combination of scent and visual cues to locate flowers with rich nectar supplies. They can detect and remember the fragrance of specific flowers and their appearances, which helps them find the most rewarding plants efficiently.

What Role does a Bee’s visit play in the Pollination process of a Flower?

During a visit to a flower, bees inadvertently pick up pollen on their bodies, which they then transfer to other flowers, enabling cross-pollination. This is a vital process for the reproduction of many plants and the production of seeds and fruits.