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Looking At The World Through Bug Eyes
By Barbara Cummings, Interpretive Naturalist, Turkey Run & Shades State Parks
Have you ever looked an insect in the eye? You might be surprised by what you see. Instead of an eyeball with one lens, like our eyes, insects have compound eyes, made of many lenses, making it look like a tiny honeycomb. Scientists think compound eyes see the world in a very different way.
Compound eyes don’t give a nice, clear picture like the ones we see. But they’re very good at detecting movement. Each lens takes its own picture, so as something moves across its field of vision, lenses are turned on and off, giving a flicker picture. That’s why movement attracts their attention. Watch bees gather nectar – the flowers that are blowing in a breeze are much more popular than the ones standing still.
Some insects have better vision than others. Grasshoppers have only 2 lenses, while small flies have five thousand. But the winner in the compound eye world is the dragonfly. It has thirty thousand lenses, giving it the clearest flicker picture of them all!