Oh my. Have you done something different with your peepers? Like maybe swapped them out for a pair of freakishly oversized fly eyes? They look functional. How would you see the world around you? What would you look like to other people? And how would this change your buzz life? Er, I mean love life?
It’s an understatement to say a fly’s eyes are a little different than yours. These insects have two compound eyes. That’s like having a bunch of little eyes that allow them to see movement from many different directions. Your human eyes are structured more like a camera. There’s an iris that controls the amount of light each eye lets in, a lens that forms the image and a retina that then detects that image.
Compare that to the compound eyes of a fly, which are made up of up to 4,500 lenses each. You might think that would give them incredible optical abilities, but each eye doesn’t actually see all that well. But combine them and they form an almost 360-degree field of vision. So if you had fly eyes, would you instantly possess super-human sight?
Your eyes might be the window to your soul, but when your loved ones look at you NOW they’d certainly be peering through a very, very different window. Before you attempt to fly away, in this scenario you’d only be doing an eye swap. The rest of your body would stay exactly the same. But what you’d see would be completely different.
You’d now have a nearly 360-degree picture of all that’s going on around you. No more worrying about people sneaking up on you. This built-in security system comes at a price. Everything would be blurry. You wouldn’t have pupils, so say goodbye to controlling the amount of light coming through the lenses to help keep things in focus.
Also, you’d no longer be able to see colors like you’re used to. Your old human eyes were marvelously advanced in this regard. Now you wouldn’t be able to see all the different shadings, hues and levels of vividness anymore. Flies only have two sensor cells, which gives them trouble distinguishing between colors. With your new fly eyes, the color red would be out of the picture. Literally.
Hope it wasn’t your favorite. There are some insects with compound eyes that see color better. Bees, for one. They even see colors better than we do. Makes sense when you consider that distinguishing different flowers is vital to their survival. But back to flies. If you found yourself with a pair of eyes from a male fly, you’d also now have the so-called love spot.
This would enhance your ability to process visual signals by up to 60%. This enables male flies to better detect the fast movements of their female counterparts. You? You’d look pretty crazy darting your head around all day looking for a date. Then again, you’d be a human with colossal compound eyes. So you’d already look a little bonkers as it is.
And bonkers would be an appropriate description of the physical appearance of these eyes, which would also would have intense patterns adding to the mystique. Researchers aren’t exactly sure why. Some think mating plays a big role. Who knows? Maybe you’d suddenly start attracting hundreds of flies of the opposite sex? All that buzzing would be worse than being text bombed.
Probably better to keep your human eyes after all. Instead, you could try out a camera scientists have built to detect movement just like a fly does. The problem is, the photos would be black and white. I’m pretty sure your iPhone could do better. Maybe you’d prefer a different kind of vision. X-Ray vision.
- “How Many Eyes Does a Fly Have?”. Lydia King. 2022. thebigzoo.com.
- “Wasps That Fly At Night”. Jean Godawa. 2018. sciencing.com.
- “Do Arachnids Have Compound Eyes Like Insects?”. Betty Lewis. 2022. animals.mom.com.
- “Through The Compound Eye”. Nancy Miorelli. 2015. askentomologists.com.
- “This Camera Looks At The World Through An Insect’S Eyes”. Colin Schultz. 2013. smithsonianmag.com.