Despite its tiny stature, the honey bee is a sophisticated and complex insect. It has developed over millions of years to perfectly adapt to its surroundings, allowing it to coexist with other living beings in a delicate balance of give-and-take.
Bees have three main body parts, mainly the head, thorax, and abdomen. The head has antennae, eyes, proboscis, mandibles, and the inner head. The thorax has wings and legs while the abdomen has reproductive organs, wax glands, and a stinger. Parts may differ based on the gender and role of a bee.
The bee’s anatomy is incredibly efficient. Every component of honey bee anatomy serves a specific, well-defined purpose and has even been fine-tuned to reflect the distinctions between the tasks of worker, drone, and queen bees.
Parts of bees
Let’s examine the insect’s lovely structure in more detail:
The head has eyes, antennae, mandibles, and a tiny but incredibly effective brain.
The honey bee’s antennae are a sensory powerhouse that serves as the bee’s senses of touch, smell, taste, and even a special kind of hearing. Interestingly, each male antenna has 13 segments, whereas the females have 12. In addition, both instances have an “elbow”-shaped “joint” on the antenna.
The antennae feature mechanoreceptors used for touch. While this is a rather obvious benefit of the antennae, it turns out they also enable the sense of hearing.
If a being has a way to detect vibrations through any mechanism, it can “hear.” For example, the mechanoreceptors on the bee’s antennae respond to air particles’ movement at frequencies associated with sound. It also uses its antennae to communicate with each other.
Honey bees have both compound and basic sets of eyes. Compound eyes are what you see when looking at a honey bee’s big eyes.
There are numerous eye units in each complex eye. These structures take in a distinct image and send the data to the brain, combining it into a single image. Additionally, this procedure aids in improving the honey bee’s ability to perceive polarized light.
A single lens in each honeybee’s three basic eyes captures UV light. The UV light enables the bee to recognize the pollen as a dark patch and determine where to land by illuminating it.
The bee’s UV polarized vision works perfectly in conjunction with their compound eyes to locate food sources.
Bees can navigate and process information more quickly with the help of this sort of vision, which also shields their eyes from the harsh glare of day. In addition, bees have a kind of tunnel vision that helps them find their food source and find their way back to the hive because they perceive the environment through polarization.
The tongue of a bee is also referred to as the proboscis. It is soft and extensible, similar to the human tongue. However, the proboscis is lengthy compared to the regular honey bee, allowing the bee to reach the center of a flower and collect nectar. The proboscis is also used to groom one another, especially the queen, or to clean their hair.
The honey bee’s jaws are extraordinarily powerful. They serve to shield the other parts of its mouth. The tongue and other intricate organs that make up the mouthparts are used to collect nectar from flowers.
The worker bee’s mandibles are different from those of the queen and her drones. The mandibles of the queen and drones are pointed to help with cutting and biting, while those of worker bees are smoothed to help with the production of wax.
5. Inner Head
Of course, the brain is concealed from view. Nevertheless, the bee’s brain’s exceptional ability to process complex information and make decisions is surprising given its small size.
There are several lobes in the brain. Additionally, there are glands inside the cranium that release secretions from the lips that are used to make wax and royal jelly (a substance produced by worker bees to feed larvae).
The honey bee’s central body section is called the thorax. It has the muscles necessary to govern movement. The wings move fast because their muscles contract quickly.
The thorax is another portion of the body to which the wings and legs are joined. Honey bees are known to have two pairs of wings and six legs, like most insects.
A honey bee’s wings can propel the insect into the air at a speed of 15 mph. A row of hooks attaches two pairs of these wings on the back wing.
Although the rear wings are significantly smaller than the fore wings, both aid in flight. Each wing receives a propeller-like twist during the up and down strokes, which causes lift-off.
The rapidly pulsing muscles of the thorax increase speed. Bees can pollinate a wider region because of their range, up to 5 miles from the hive.
The three pairs of legs on a honey bee split into six segments, making them extremely flexible. The rear legs feature a pollen basket-designated area for collecting pollen, whereas the front legs are specifically made to clean the antennae.
The bee can land more easily on slick surfaces because of the sticky pads and claws on each leg. The tips of the legs of bees also have taste receptors.
The worker bee is distinguished from the other bees in the hive by having unique combs and a pollen press on its rear legs. With them, pollen and propolis are brushed, gathered, packed, and transported back to the hive.
The pollen basket is a concave structure surrounded by hairs found on the bee’s hind legs. A bee grooms herself as she visits a flower, brushing pollen from her body toward her legs. The pollen is then placed within the pollen basket.
Some nectar is added to the pollen to preserve its cohesiveness while in flight. Finally, everything is secured in place by the hairs on the pollen basket.
The abdomen is the last part of a bee’s body. The digestive system, reproductive systems, wax glands, venom pouch, and honey crop – a pocket where the bee can store up to one-third of its weight in nectar or honey – are all located inside the exoskeleton of the abdomen. It is, therefore, the most crucial component of the bee’s anatomy.
1. Reproductive organs
The spermatheca, which is found in the abdomen of queen bees, is utilized to store sperm gathered during mating flights and when laying as she fertilizes eggs. The queen’s ovaries mature and start producing eggs around the age of 1-2 weeks, and she will keep laying eggs until she dies.
For the drone, his sexual organ is a “use once” item. The drone dies immediately after since his sexual organs are torn from him after mating. Another peculiar fact is that his ejaculation is so loud that human ears can hear it.
2. Wax glands
Four pairs of wax-producing scales are on the underside of worker bees’ abdomen. These produce molten wax that hardens into tiny scales when exposed to air.
Young worker bees in a hive are in charge of making wax. In a day, workers may produce about 8 scales. Therefore, the colony must produce approximately 1,000 of these scales to produce just one gram of wax.
This is the part of a bee’s anatomy that the general public initially notices. The sole effective defense mechanism for honey bees is their stinger. Honey bees usually die after using their stinger. Therefore they only strike as a last resort when attacked. A fun fact is that only female bees have stingers.
Following are the differences between the worker, queen, and drone stingers:
Worker: The stinger is barbed and will be pulled off once it penetrates human skin as the bee tries to free herself. The workers frequently die as a result of this.
Queen: A queen may repeatedly sting without damaging her stinger because it lacks a barb. But keep in mind that queen bee stings are pretty uncommon.
Drone: Drones don’t have stingers, so there’s no need to be concerned!
In conclusion, the bee’s anatomy is exquisite and very effective. Think about how a honey bee’s tiny body can fit so much into such a little space the next time you see one.