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Bee-search: How Do Bees See

Hi everyone! I’m Molly, a senior Biology major at the Georgia Institute of Technology. Since my school’s mascot is a Yellow Jacket, I guess it’s very on-brand for me to be working with a similar insect, honey bees! But ironically, I’ve always thought I was allergic to bees. I had a reaction to a sting when I was little, but testing last month revealed I’m no longer allergic, and I’m hoping that stays the case! I’ve been getting over my fear of them slowly but surely, and now I love our pollinating friends!

                                                          My feelings on bees then…


My feelings on bees now (featuring Georgia Tech’s mascot Buzz)

This summer I’ll be looking at a specific aspect of how honey bees forage for food: optic flow, which is a facet of vision. As bees fly through their environment, they monitor the magnitude of perceived image motion (optic flow). This allows them to gauge distances. If you see bees outside a hive, they’re probably using this technique to find their way home. In order to examine this, we’re going to try to confuse them as much as possible. We will train them to forage in a tunnel, and then change the diameter and see if they think they have travelled farther or not as far as they have by changing optic flow. Once we get there, I have some ideas to try to take it a little further.

                           Compound eyes!


Visual representation of how optic flow works for bees as they travel through their environment

So far I have built my tunnel for training and painted it in vertical stripes to focus on optic flow. This week I will try some pilot tests having bees forage in the tunnel and make sure my recording system is functional. Hoping it works!

Bees are super important to us, therefore, so is understanding them!

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