We spend so much time counting ladybugs’ spots that we don’t often think about their eyes, do we? You may notice that some ladybugs have two big white spots near the fronts of their bodies. They may look like eyes, but don’t be fooled! These markings are on the thorax, or middle part of the ladybug. The ladybug’s real eyes are on its head, and they are black, not white!
Ladybugs have two compound eyes. If you were to zoom in on a compound eye, you’d notice that up close it looks a bit like a collection of bumps! That’s because each compound eye is made of many sections called ommatidia, and each ommatidium is able to pick up important details, such as brightness. The ommatidia point in different directions, helping ladybugs to notice when something around them moves.
With so many parts to each eye, it may seem like ladybugs would have some amazingly detailed sight, but rather than seeing a rainbow of colors, ladybugs see mostly light and dark. This type of vision is just fine for ladybugs, because they can smell better than they can see.
Ladybugs use their antennae, which are attached below their eyes, to feel, smell and taste. Along with their eyes, these antennae help ladybugs gather information about the world around them and hunt for the food they need. Now that’s some super sensing!
ExplorationIt’s fun to learn about compound eyes, especially when we compare them to our eyes that have pupils and irises. To celebrate the detailed wonder of insect eyes, make your own ladybug by cutting out five circles: one large red, orange or yellow circle for the abdomen (the back part of the ladybug), one smaller black circle for the thorax (the middle part where the legs and wings are attached) and another smaller circle for the head. The head should not be smaller than the size of a coaster, as the eyes will be important in this art project and therefore need to be prominent! If need be, moms and dads can help with the cutting.
Now cut out the final two circles, both black and the same size (no smaller than the size of a checker). These circles will be the eyes, and you will glue them to the circle that is the head. Have fun assembling and gluing all five circles to make a representation of a ladybug. Don’t forget to color or paint the ladybug’s spots.
Now as a final fabulous touch, make the eyes compound! If you’ve ever looked closely at a traffic light, you’ve noticed how the red, green and yellow circular lights each seem to be made of even smaller dots of the same color. A compound eye is made up of smaller sections too! To show these sections, or ommatidia, on the eyes of your ladybug, paint the eye circles with glue, then cover them with black sequins.
For an added bonus, don’t forget the pipe cleaner antennae!
Sources & links
“Identifying the 4 Most Common Ladybugs.” Symbiont. drmcbug.com. 9 July 2010 “compound eye.” The Internet Encyclopedia of Science. Worlds of David Darling. Daviddarling.info. 9 July 2010 “Ladybug Anatomy.” Ladybug-life-cycle.com. Nature Gift Store. 9 July 2010