A new study looks at how honey bees manage to stay clean while pollinating plants.
According to the study, a honey bee can carry up to 30 percent of its body weight in pollen because of the strategic spacing of its nearly three million hairs. The hairs cover the insect’s eyes and entire body in various densities that allow efficient cleaning and transport.
The Georgia Tech researchers found that the gap between each eye hair is approximately the same size as a grain of dandelion pollen, which bees typically collect. This keeps the pollen suspended above the eye and allows the forelegs to comb through and collect the particles.
The legs are much hairier and the hair is very densely packed—five times denser than the hair on the eyes. This helps the legs collect as much pollen as possible with each swipe. Once the forelegs are sufficiently scrubbed and cleaned by the other legs and the mouth, they return to the eyes and continue the process until the eyes are free of pollen.