Tuesday, 15 June 2010

How many eyes make five?

My Collins 2010 Diary has a trivia/pub quiz question for each day of the year, with the answer conveniently printed, upside down, below the question.  The entry for 24 June is 'How many eyes does a bee have?'  Answer: 5.

I passed this information on in a comment on a rather grumpy, bee-related post by a fellow-blogger, in the hope that it would cheer her up (I think it did!).  But then I wondered: can this be so?  If it is, then it's the only example I know of a creature having an odd number (one excepted, of course) of any organ.  (My blogging partner obviously did some exhaustive research on this phenomenon, because her follow-up comment was 'How strange is that?')

Wikipedia is oddly (sorry, no pun meant) reticent on the subject.  Its bee entry (which is suspiciously hard to find) doesn't mention eyes, except for a scary profile picture on which something called 'composite eye' is labelled.  They don't tell you how many components there are to this, but assuming that our bee has two composites, it would have to be two-and-a-half for each, wouldn't it?  This seems unlikely.  Perhaps my diary only counted one eye.  Hah, Collins!

The research must continue, given the power bees apparently have over the survival of our environment (not to mention the honey and its impact on bears of little brain).  But I can't do it.  My mind has shifted to the related, and equally challenging, topic of bee's knees.

Of course, the diary item was for ten days time, so as the Boss says, 'none of this has happened yet' ...


  1. Ah ha! It did indeed cheer me up but now I must turn my easily distracted attention to find out more about bee eyes. If you go to my Renderosity gallery you can see one of my bees and count for yourself. Ha, ha.

  2. I have done a bit of research too. I quote:-

    "Apparently, the bee's eyes, like those of other insects, differ greatly from human eyes. They consist of a pair of compound eyes made up of numerous six-sided facets. They also have three simple eyes. Despite this, their vision is believed to be sharp for a distance of only about 1 m (3 ft.).

    However, bees are capable of seeing ultraviolet light, which is invisible to humans. The bee is capable of navigating by ultraviolet light, which even penetrates cloud cover."

    Re bees knees, I quote again:-

    "It's difficult to know if we need an etymologist or an entomologist for this one.
    Bees carry pollen back to the hive in sacs on their legs. It is tempting to explain this phrase as alluding to the concentrated goodness to be found around a bee's knee, but there's no evidence to support this explanation. It is also sometimes said to be a corruption of 'business', but there's no evidence to support that either.

    Nor is there any connection with another earlier phrase, 'a bee's knee'. In the 18th century this was used as a synonym for smallness, but has since disappeared from the language, replaced more recently by the less polite 'gnat's bollock'."

    Hope this helps add to the store of useless information :)