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Everyone knows that honeybees are hairy, but just how fuzzy are the little guys? It turns out that a honeybee has nearly three million hairs – including hairs on its eyes.
This impressive anatomy allows a honeybee to carry approximately 30% of its body weight in pollen, collected from the flowers it visits. On the eyes, the hairs are cleverly spaced to be about the size of a grain of dandelion pollen. This means that pollen doesn't touch the bee's eyes and can easily be removed by the insect's forelegs and deposited into corbiculae (pollen baskets) on the hind legs. On other parts of its body, however, the hairs are five times more dense and can collect much more pollen. Bees have a set cleaning routine for removing the pollen – scrub the forelegs with other legs and mouth, then use the forelegs to clean the eyes.
The buzz on pollen collection:
- A team of researchers at Georgia Tech used high-speed cameras to observe just how amazing the process of pollen collection is. The bees were able to remove around 15,000 particles from their bodies in just three minutes.
- It's not just hairs that allow honeybees to collect pollen grains so effectively. Pollen is covered with a sticky substance known as "pollenkitt" that is responsible for around half of the bees' collection.
- The Georgia Tech research could prove valuable in the future, especially if honeybee colony health continues to falter and artificially-designed pollinators are needed to support struggling bee populations.