Imagine you’re a Bee
I’m not sure how the rest of you are doing in quarantine, but for me the hours spent inside have seemed endless. I have felt levels of boredom and overwhelming anxiety about the state of the world which I wouldn’t normally experience. Something about being told to stay home reminds me of being sent to my room as a child. And it may be because of this feeling that I have reverted to some child-like habits to get me through the days: coloring in coloring books, watching excessive amounts of TV, and playing pretend. So, today I wanted to invite you to play along with me; Imagine you’re a bee…
You’re about 700,000 times smaller than the average human now. Despite this you have more legs and more eyes than you would as a human. Plus you’ve acquired some wings, antennae, and a stinger. Sadly though your bees knees don’t exist. Now that you’re a bee you experience the world in a completely different way.
As a bee you have five eyes. Three of them are simple eyes or ocelli. These eyes allow you to see light and sense movement. Now you can perceive movement that occurs for 1/300th of a second. As a human you can only sense motion that happens for longer than 1/50th of a second.
Your other two eyes are compound eyes. They are made up of 6,900 tiny lenses. Each lens offers you a different pixel which you use to see the world around you.
The world is a different color to you now. You can see in ultraviolet. As a human you see more yellows and reds. But now that you’re a bee you can see far more shades of blue and green but you see red as black. A flower which would have appeared white to you as a human now might look purple or blue.
Now that you’re a bee you no longer have a nose. Instead you use an antenna to receive chemical cues from odors. Your antenna can swivel freely in all directions. Your sense of smell is so refined you can smell scents while in flight. You can smell the pollen of a flower from at least two miles away. Now your sense of smell is about 100 times stronger than it was as a human.
You are able to smell other bees. Your Queen Bee has her own scent or pheromone which she releases from glands throughout her body.
As a bee you have a two part tongue. To use your tongue you have to fold two organs called the maxillae and the labium into a tube for sucking. You have mandibles or jaws which you use for chewing pollen and softening wax. However, these mouth-parts do not have taste buds. Instead you taste using specialized hairs called sensilla which grow on your legs and antennae. You can still taste sweet, salty, sour, and bitterness, the same range you would have had as a human.
Now you have six legs. Each leg also has six segments which makes them very flexible. Your front legs are used to clean your antenna and your back legs are used to collect pollen in pollen baskets. Each leg has claws for gripping and sticky pads to help you stick landing on slick surfaces. You and your fellow bees often walk over each other to exchange information. Signals from the other bees are received through hair receptors all over your body.
As a human we associate bees with a very clear sound: buzzing. But as a bee you don’t have ears. Now you ‘hear’ by feeling vibrations with your whole body. Actually the sound of bees buzzing you would have heard as a human is rapid wing movements you can make now that you’re a bee. These wing movements are sometimes incorporated into a dance, called the waggle dance, which signals to your fellow bees where a food source is.
As you can see, life would be very different as a bee. I hope this exercise offered you a little escape from lockdown!
Thanks for reading.