The Bee People – Chapter 2

Chapter 2 – Apis Mellifica and Her Eyes


Here comes a little brown lady whose name is Apis Mellifica. She is making her wings go so fast that they buzz like a humming-top. Straight as a, arrow she goes to that morning-glory flower. All at once the buzzing stops; little Miss Apis has landed feet down and right side up on the nectar guide.

Such great eyes as stare at you when look her full in the face! No wonder she saw the bright flower a long way off and came straight to it. She has more eye-space for her size than an owl, which is saying a good deal. In fact, her head looks as if it were nearly all eyes, — for two large ones cover the sides. And if you will believe me, in the space between the two large eyes, right on top of her head, are three small ones! Unless you shave Miss Apis’s head you can see but one of these small eyes at a time, as there is a tuft of hairs in front of each, which hides it unless you’re are looking right down into it. In the picture Miss Apis’s head has been shaved. Five eyes! But that is not all. Each of her two large eyes is made up of about six thousand three hundred very small ones.

Really, Miss Apis, twelve thousand six hundred and three eyes are a goodly supply for one bee. It is fortunate that she does not have to keep count of them, for if she counted an eye every second it would take almost four hours to get to the end, without stopping to take a sip of honey, or even to say, Oh, dear me!


How would you like your mother to look at you out of more than twelve thousand eyes when you had been doing something naughty? Two eyes are bad enough at such times. Let us hope that young bees never do wrong.

[…]

Although she possesses such a prodigious number of eyes, Miss Apis has no eyelids. No, indeed! She has eye-hairs instead, that point outward and do not prevent her seeing but keep dust and pollen from getting into her eyes.

Key Points:

  • It is true bees have lots of eyes, made up of ommatidia (that is at least a 14 point scrabble word, but worth a lot more in street cred)
  • Bees actually have a very unique color sense
  • Bees can distinguish color from gray
  • However, they have trouble distinguishing between colors and tend to run them together: “orange, yellow, and green“= yellow. “Blue, violet, and purple”= blue.
  • Bees can’t really see the color red, aka red-blind, which seems so counterintuitive
  • People actually study this
  • Flowers play to these bee strengths (ultra-violet color for bees eyes only)

I share with you words and illustrations from the public domain M. Morely book – The Bee People. Published 1899; designed for third to fifth grade readers with goal to learn “how to observe” but plenty for adults to learn as well. Life lesson, bee truths and a gauge to see if we have made progress over the last century. If you find something interesting take 5 minutes and do some extra research. Bees are amazing creatures!

Excerpts –

Resources:

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