Apis Mellifica and Her Eyes
H ERE comes a little brown lady whose mane is Apis Mellifica. She is making her wings to so fast that they buzz like a humming-top. Straight as an 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 you 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 heard, 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 are looking right down into it. In the picture Miss Apis's head has been shaved.
But that is not all. Each of her two large eyes is made up of about six thousand three hundred verysmall 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.
Just imagine a naughty little bee looking up to find twelve thousand six hundred small eyes and three large ones solemnly staring at his wickedness!
The truth is, all the thousands of small eyes that make up each large eye work together and act as one large eye.
Miss Apis's large eyes are called "compound eyes" because they are made of so many small eyes, or "facets."
The facets are so very small that you cannot see them except by the aid of a microscope; and here is a picture showing you a portion of the eye considerably magnified.
Whoever goes as far as Miss Apis does in search of flowers needs good eyes that can see a long distance. She has been known to fly four or five miles in search of flowers; just think of going back and forth from hive to flowers and flowers to hive any such distance as that! As a rule, however, Miss Apis goes only a little way, half a mile or so, but even for this she needs good, far-seeing eyes.
And she has them,—for her compound eyes are very far-sighted.
This is probably the reason she needs the three small eyes, which are near-sighted and enable her to see things close at hand.
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.
If you look back at the picture of the facets, you will see some of these hairs. She combs her eyes every time she combs her head, and this does not seem at all funny to her, for, you see, she is used to it.