Research Project: Bees And Golf Balls

Nothing Else Counts In This World!   

James Asks, "Why Do Bees Land On My White Golf Balls?"

There is a two part answer to this magnificent question posed by Group Commander James

The Bees Doesn't Have Time To Become Smart

For the first two or three days of their adult life, honeybees take care of regulating the temperature within the hive, and keeping it clear of debris. Temperature is maintained through a communal cooperation in heating (or cooling) and ventilation. The brood requires a fairly consistent range of 95-97 degrees Fahrenheit. Ventilation and cooling is accomplished by whirring the wings, and in extreme circumstances, water is fetched and poured over the combs.

The next three to six days are spent feeding pollen and honey to the larvae. Both of these foods are stored, separated, in different groups of cells throughout the hive. From about the seventh day, for about a week, the honeybee develops two large glands in its head which secrete royal jelly, a vital growth-promoting substance. This protein-laden fluid is exuded from the bee's mouth and is fed to the queen and very young larvae. The queen is fed royal jelly continuously throughout her life; she ripens and deposits about 100 eggs every hour of the day and night. This astounding feat obviously requires vast amounts of metabolic fuel and building materials, and the royal jelly packs an enormous amount of energy. The bees in a normal colony have perhaps 10,000 larvae to feed at any one time, and each of these may require several thousand feeding visits in the six days they take to mature.

A healthy colony may contain 50 to 80 thousand individuals, including 2 or 3 thousand male bees (drones). They, too, are fed with royal jelly until they are either expelled from the nest during a swarm, or are killed by stinging and thrown out .

Between the 12th and 18th day of their existence, the bee's wax glands begin to produce the substance from which the combs are constructed. They are then occupied with receiving pollen and honey from the foragers, building storage and brood cells, and standing sentry duty at the hive entrance.

The third and final phase of a honeybee's life is spent in the field, gathering pollen and honey and returning it to the hive. During this period the bee also passes information to her sister foragers regarding the location of food sources, including the direction and distance from the hive. These data are communicated through a complex series of "dance" movements performed on the honeycomb. The spatial orientation of the dance is related to the sun's position, and the number of "wiggles" the bee incorporates gives the distance to and abundance of the food source.

An adult honeybee survives about 10 days of foraging, for a total lifespan of about 35 days.

Answer: After 60+ years on this planet, we can determine the difference between leaves, white flowers and golf balls pretty easy!  A 35 day old human cannot.  Therefore a 35 day old bee cannot either!

Their Eyesight

Although both honey bees and people have a visual system based upon three-colors, the limits of this color sensitivity are very different. People cannot see very far into the Violet or Ultraviolet region of the electromagnetic visual spectrum. We are essentially blind to wavelengths of light below 400 nanometers/millimicrons (light in this regions is called UV-A and UV-B light). These are the powerful light rays which cause us to tan or sunburn. Bees can see these invisible-to-us rays of light! Another interesting difference happens at the opposite end of the visible spectrum. We can easily see the color of a red sweater or red fire engine (at least many of them used to be red!). To a honey bee, however, the color red is invisible. They see red objects as black, or the absence of color.

Answer: When a golfer goes out to play, he or she puts on sunscreen which contains a powerful UV blocker.  The bees flying overhead are attracted to the ball becuse when we place the ball on the tee or it lands on the grass, the UV is reflected off the ball because of the residue of the sunscreen remaining on our hands when we handle the ball!

Visual Aids

Bees and golf balls
What James sees

The bee ball
What the bee sees

Normal vision
This is what humans see

Bees view
A bees view of the same

Bee eye
Bee eye