Magnetoreception in Honeybees

Science  01 Jul 1994:
Vol. 265, Issue 5168, pp. 95-97
DOI: 10.1126/science.265.5168.95


Magnetoreception by honeybees (Apis mellifera) is demonstrated by such activities as comb building and homing orientation, which are affected by the geomagnetic field. In other magnetoreceptive species, iron oxide crystals in the form of magnetite have been shown to be necessary for primary detection of magnetic fields. Here it is shown that trophocytes, which are apparently the only iron granule—containing cells in honeybees, contain super-paramagnetic magnetite. These cells are innervated by the nervous system, which suggests that trophocytes might be primarily responsible for magnetoreception. Electron microscopy also shows cytoskeletal attachments to the iron granule membrane.