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I photographed these (unidentified) wasps on a sunny but cool winter day in northern Taiwan because they were conspicuously hanging out on a hand railing and had much lighter coloring than I'd ever seen before.

But after I took the time to look at a close-up I realized "Wow, this wasp has three dots on the top of it's head!"

If it was a spider I'd assume they were eyes, but like many insects these wasps already have to large wrap-around eyes that extend towards the top of the head already?

Question: What are the three dots (eyes?) on the top of this wasp's head?

wasps in December, northern Taiwan

wasps in December, northern Taiwan

wasps in December, northern Taiwan click for full size

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I don't know what species this is but a lot of bees and wasps have those three dots on their head. They are sort of eyes, but they can't actually make out images. They basically just detect light above the wasp's head. By having three there in a triangular configuration, the wasp can determine the direction of any shadow that appears overhead, like a bird swooping down for a snack.

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  • $\begingroup$ Neat. We often forget as mammals with a paltry two eyes that in other creatures, different eyes may have different purposes and be more highly specialized. $\endgroup$ Dec 28, 2023 at 3:33
  • $\begingroup$ If I recall, these might be horizon sensors or sky polarization compasses. $\endgroup$
    – DKNguyen
    Dec 29, 2023 at 15:27

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