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Body detects magnetic fields: honeybee


Bee collecting pollen / Jon Sullivan / LicensePD - Public Domain

The abdomens of honeybees may be able to detect magnetic fields and use them in navigation thanks to magnetite.

"The bodies of honeybees also contain magnetite. In the 1970s, Princeton University zoologist Dr. Joseph Kirschvink showed that the magnetite lies in bands of cells in each segment of the bee's abdomen. It is most concentrated just below the ganglion (a compact mass of nerve cells)." (Shuker 2001:45)

"'How do MGs found in the abdomen function as magnetoreceptors' is an enigma yet to be resolved. Suffice to note that peripheral neurons of insects may play a role independent of the brain, such that a male cockroach can continue with mating, with its head bitten off by his female partner. Certainly, a magnetoreception system for positioning and orientation exists in honeybees, and this simple, primitive, and highly accurate sensing mechanism may be present in all other magnetotactic organisms." (Hsu et al. 2007:8)
About the inspiring organism
Med_800pxbees_collecting_pollen_20040814 honey bee
Apis mellifera Linnaeus
Common name: Honey bee

Learn more at
Some organism data provided by: ITIS: The Integrated Taxonomic Information System
Organism/taxonomy data provided by:
Species 2000 & ITIS Catalogue of Life: 2008 Annual Checklist

IUCN Red List Status: Unknown

Bioinspired products and application ideas

Application Ideas: Magnetic sensors.

Industrial Sector(s) interested in this strategy: Magnetics, industrial engineering

Shuker, KPN. 2001. The Hidden Powers of Animals: Uncovering the Secrets of Nature. London: Marshall Editions Ltd. 240 p.
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Hsu C-Y; Ko F-Y; Li C-W; Fann K; Lue J-T. 2007. Magnetoreception system in honeybees Apis mellifera. PLoS ONE. 2(4): e395.
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