The antennae of the honeybee enable smooth landings by sensing landing distance and angle, signaling the body to orient appropriately.

Honeybees come in contact with a variety of surfaces throughout their day of flying and foraging. It has been observed that a honeybee can achieve smooth landings upon any surface, regardless of the angle or orientation of its landing. This means that the bee lands just as smoothly upon a vertically-oriented leaf as a horizontal one.

This smooth landing is attributed to the bee’s ability to evaluate and adjust its distance from the landing platform. When nearing a landing surface, the bee decelerates. Within a few centimeters of the surface, the bee hovers, using its antennae to sense the platform’s orientation. Once the bee is 16 miillimeters away, it adjusts its body based upon the angle sensed by its antennae. The base of its antennae remain at this 16-millimeter distance from the landing platform regardless of the platform’s orientation. Only the body of the honeybee adjusts to the tilt of the platform. The bee’s closest feet touch down first, allowing the rest of its body to follow.

This 16-millimeter distance seems to be the ideal placement for the honeybee to make contact with the surface with any one of its feet. The foot that first contacts the surface varies by landing orientation. A horizontal platform initiates a hindleg landing, while a vertical platform initiates a foreleg landing.

This summary was contributed by Ashley Meyers.

Last Updated March 24, 2020