Yes, bees can see. They see through compound eyes and ocelli. These eyes allow them to see color, detect movement, and perceive images.
In this article, we’ll learn more about bee vision as we discuss the following:
- How do we know bees can see?
- How do bees see?
- What do bees see?
- How far can bees see?
- Can bees see in the dark?
- Bee vision vs. human vision
How Do We Know Bees Can See?
We know bees can see through different experiments and studies on bee vision. For one, researchers have studied the photoreceptors in the bees’ eyes. Some researchers have subjected or exposed these photoreceptors to different lights. In doing so, they’ve determined whether they respond to light and send signals to the brain.
There are also behavioral experiments pertaining to bees and color. For example, in 1914 Karl von Frisch trained honeybees to collect sugar water from a blue card. Bees continued to choose the color even after removing the sugar solution. This pioneering work led to more studies on bee vision. Since then, we’ve learned that bees can see different colors and ultraviolet light. 
How Do Bees See?
Like us, bees see through their eyes. They have a total of 5 eyes: 2 compound eyes and 3 ocelli. Together these eyes allow them to see light, color, movement, and to interpret images.
What Are Compound Eyes?
Compound eyes are a type of eye found in many insects like bees. They are made up of multiple tiny individual lenses called ommatidia. Each ommatidium has its own light-sensitive cells that form a small image. These images are then combined by the brain to form mosaic-like images.
Compound eyes have a wide field of view and excellent motion detection abilities. They allow bees to detect fast-moving objects and navigate their environment effectively. They also detect color and differentiate between light and dark.
However, they have a lower resolution compared to the single-lens eyes found in humans and other vertebrates The images they produce are more pixelated or grainy.
What Are Ocelli?
Likewise, ocelli are simple eyes found in bees and certain invertebrates. Unlike compound eyes though, ocelli consist of only a single lens. These eyes are generally less complex than compound eyes and lack the ability to form detailed images.
Their primary function is to detect changes in light intensity. They help bees orient themselves and respond to their environment.
What Do Bees See?
Bees have one of the most advanced color vision systems among insects. Bees are trichromatic, meaning they have three types of photoreceptor cells in their eyes. These cells are sensitive to different wavelengths of light and allow bees to perceive a wide range of colors.
Bee Visual Spectrum
Bees have a visual spectrum that is different from that of humans. Humans can see a range of colors from red to violet. In contrast, the bee’s visual spectrum bypasses red but extends into the ultraviolet (UV) range. This means that bees can see colors that we cannot perceive.
This ability to see UV light is important for bees as it helps them in various aspects of their lives. For example, bees can detect patterns on flowers that are designed to attract bees. These patterns, known as “nectar guides,” guide the bees towards the nectar-rich parts of the flower.
Bees are also sensitive to polarized light. They can use this light to orient themselves and locate direction even when the sun isn’t shining. Through it, they navigate and find their way back to their hives. This is particularly useful for bees that forage over long distances.
How Far Can Bees See?
Bee vision is not as sharp as humans. Bees can see relatively well up close, but their long-distance vision is limited. They typically don’t see details unless they’re less than a foot from an object.
Can Bees See in the Dark?
Bees have limited vision in low-light conditions, such as darkness. They’re similar to us, in that their ability to see declines as it gets darker. This is because they rely on their photoreceptor cells to detect light. Without sufficient light, their vision becomes less effective.
That said, some nocturnal bees are well-adapted for low-light conditions. These bees generally have larger eyes. In fact, some of these bees have ocelli 2 times larger than their diurnal counterparts. Also, while less significant, their compound eyes are also relatively larger. They also contain larger numbers of ommatidia. 
Bee Vision vs. Human Vision
Bees are similar to humans in that their vision is trichromatic. This means, that they both have 3 types of color receptors in their eyes. However, bees and humans differ in terms of the spectrum of light that they can perceive.
Humans generally see in the 700 to 400 nm range of the spectrum, while bees can see from the 600 to 300 nm range. Humans base their color combinations on red, blue, and green. In contrast, bees base their colors on ultraviolet light, blue and green. This means that bees can see ultraviolet (UV) light, while humans cannot. On the flipside though, bees can’t see the color red.
Apart from the spectrum of colors, bees and humans differ in terms of visual acuity and field of vision.
Humans have higher visual acuity. Human eyes generally produce images 100 times clearer than bees’ compound eyes. The latter is heavily dependent on the number of ommatidia and typically produces pixelated images. With this, humans can see farther than bees.
That said, bees make up for it with their field of vision. Humans only have 180 degrees of vision, while bees have 280 degrees.
Can Bees Hear?
Yes, bees can hear. They hear and pick up sounds with their bodies. They detect and interpret sound through substrate-borne and airborne vibrations.
See this article to learn more about bee hearing.
Summary: Can Bees See? How Do They See?
To summarize, yes bees can see. Like us, they see through their eyes. Bees have a total of 5 eyes: 2 compound eyes and 3 simple eyes called ocelli. These eyes have functioning photoreceptors that send signals to the brain. Through them, bees are able to see color, detect movement, and perceive images.