Honey bees have 30 per cent better eyesight than has been previously recorded, suggest results of "eye tests" given to the flying insects.
The findings suggest that they can spot a potential predator, and thus escape, far earlier than what we thought previously.
The researchers believe that the results, published in the journal Scientific Reports, could provide insights into the lives of honey bees, and new opportunities for translating this knowledge into fields such as robot vision.
"We've shown that the honey bee has higher visual acuity than previously reported. They can resolve finer details than we originally thought," said one of the researches Steven Wiederman from Adelaide Medical School, University of Adelaide in Australia.
"Importantly, these findings could also be useful in our work on designing bio-inspired robotics and robot vision, and for basic research on bee biology," he added.
The researchers set out to answer two specific questions: first, what is the smallest well-defined object that a bee can see? (its object resolution); and second, how far away can a bee see an object, even if it cannot see that object clearly? (maximum detectability limit).
To do so, the researchers took electrophysiological recordings of the neural responses occurring in single photoreceptors in a bee's eyes.
The photoreceptors are detectors of light in the retina, and each time an object passes into the field of vision, it registers a neural response.
"We found that in the frontal part of the eye, where the resolution is maximised, honey bees can clearly see objects that are as small as 1.9 degree -- that's approximately the width of your thumb when you stretch your arm out in front of you," Elisa Rigosi from Lund University in Sweden said.
This is 30 per cent better eyesight than has been previously recorded, she said.
"In terms of the smallest object a bee can detect, but not clearly, this works out to be about 0.6 degree -- that's one third of your thumb width at arm's length," Rigosi said.
"These new results suggest that bees have the chance to see a potential predator, and thus escape, far earlier than what we thought previously, or perceive landmarks in the environment better than we expected, which is useful for navigation and thus for survival," she added.
This research offers new and useful information about insect vision more broadly as well as for honey bees, Wiederman said.
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