Bees belong to the third-largest insect order, Hymenoptera, which also includes wasps and ants. Together, these creatures pollinate plants including many crops, turn over the soil more effectively than earthworms, and, in the case of the honey bee, furnish food in the form of honey. Even more importantly, some members of this order prey on other insects— the single most-important factor in keeping the Earth's insect population in check.
The bee's eyes, like those of other insects, differ greatly from human eyes. They consist of a pair of compound eyes made up of numerous six-sided facets. They also have three simple eyes. Despite this, their vision is believed to be sharp for a distance of only about 1 m (3 ft.).
Bees, however, are capable of seeing ultraviolet light, which is invisible to humans. The bee is capable of navigating by ultraviolet light, which even penetrates cloud cover. Honey bees (Apis mellifera) also use the sun as a reference point to communicate to other bees the angle of flight to be followed to arrive at newly discovered nectar-bearing flowers.
Bees occur on all continents except Antarctica. They are most frequent in hot, arid habitats. There are about 3500 species of bees in North America.