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Honey bee story

Bee Anatomy

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  • Abdomen: The part of the body in animals with a backbone (vertebrates) that contains the digestive organs such as the stomach and intestines. The last segment of the body of insects and other arthropods.
  • Antennae: the long, thin structures on the head.
  • Exoskeleton: hard body covering... more
  • Thorax: in general the part of the body between the neck and waist in humans and the central part of an insects body where the legs and wings are attached... more

Bee Anatomy

Honey bees are insects and have five characteristics that are common to most insects.

  • They have a hard outer shell called an exoskeleton.
  • They have three main body parts: head, thorax, abdomen.
  • They have a pair of antennae that are attached to their head.
  • They have three pairs of legs used for walking.
  • They have two pairs of wings.

You can use the illustrations below to explore the anatomy of the honey bee both what you can see from the outside and also the parts of the honey bee located inside.

 Honey bee anatomy

Looking at the Outside of a Honey Bee

A-HeadLocation of the eyes, brain, where the antennae attach.
B-ThoraxMidsection where the (6) legs and wings attach.
C-AbdomenHind part of the bee and where the stinger is located
1-GenaJust below the eyes and somewhat like human cheeks.
2-VertexThe top of the head
3-OcelliOne of two types of insect eyes used to detect motion.
4-AntennaMovable segmented feelers that detect airborne scents and currents.
5-Compound EyeThe second type of eyes made of many light detectors called ommatidia.
6-FeelersTiny antenna-like structures that have sensory hairs used to detect sugars, salt, sour and bitter foods.
7-ProboscisTube-like mouth part used to suck up fluids.
8-ForelegLeg closest to the head.
9-FemurThird segment of an insect leg.
10-Middle LegLeg located between the foreleg and hind leg.
11-Tarsal ClawClaw found on the last segment of the leg.
12-TarsusThe last segment of the leg and what touches the walking surface.
13-TibiaFourth segment of an insect leg.
14-Hind LegOne of a set of legs furthest from the head. Also where workers have a unique set of tools used to collect and carry pollen called the comb, press, rakes, and basket.
15-SternumThe underside of the abdomen.
16-StingOr stinger, is a sharp organ at the end of the bee's abdomen used to inject venom.
17-Hind WingWing furthest from the head.
18-ForewingWing closest to the head.

 

Honey bee internal anatomy

Looking Inside a Honey Bee

1-ProboscisStraw-like mouthparts of a bee used to drink fluids.
2-MaxillaeThe outer sheath of the proboscis which surrounds the labium.
3-MandibleA pair of jaws used to chew pollen and work wax for comb building. They also help with anything that the bee needs to manipulate.
4-LabrumA movable flap on the head that covers the opening of the food canal and proboscis
5-Food CanalLike our mouths, this is the opening by which the bee will take in food. Bees' food is almost always liquid in the form of nectar or honey.
6-PharynxMuscles used to move the labium and suck up nectar from flowers.
7-EsophagusThe hollow tube through which ingested fluids pass to the honey stomach and later the midgut.
8-Hypopharyngeal glandGland that produces some of the compounds necessary for making royal jelly, used to feed the larvae.
9-BrainHoney bees have excellent learning and memory processing abilities. Their brain processes information used in navigation and communication as well as memory. The brain also controls many of the basic bee body functions.
10-Salivary GlandThe salivary glands have a number of functions. Like the hypopharyngeal gland, the salivary glands produce some compounds necessary for producing royal jelly. The salivary glands produce liquid used to dissolve sugar, and also produce compounds used to clean the body and contribute to the colony’s chemical identity.
11-Flight MusclesThe thorax muscles, which power the bee’s wings for flying and movement. These muscles work very hard and can help the bee to beat its wings up to 230 times per second.
12-HeartUnlike in mammals, honey bees and insects have an open circulatory system, meaning their blood is not contained within tubes like veins or arteries. The blood, or hemolymph, in insects is free-flowing throughout the body cavity and is pumped via the heart. The heart is the structure in red, and acts like a pumping leaky tube to help move the hemolymph throughout the body
13-Opening of SpiracleThe respiratory system in insects is a series of hollow tubes connected to air sacs in the body. The openings of these hollow tubes are called spiracles. The tubes are called trachea which then provide oxygen and gas exchange to all tissues in the body.
14-Air sacAir filled sacs used as reservoirs of air in the insect body.
15-MidgutContains the proventriculus, ventriculus, and small intestine. This is where most of the digestion and nutrient absorption occurs in the insect body
16-Heart OpeningsOpenings in the heart tube which take in and pump out hemolymph.
17-IleumA short tube connecting the midgut to the hindgut. The Ileum also often houses microbes, which aid in digestion.
18-Nasonov GlandA gland visible on the abdomen, which produces an attraction pheromone. Bees use this pheromone or chemical odor to help bees find the nest entrance, as well as flowers when released at those locations.
19-RectumThe rectum acts like our large intestine and is the bees primary location of water absorption for the gut after digestion and nutrient absorption.
20-AnusThe exit of the digestive system, used to excrete food waste (poop) while in flight.
21-StingerAlso called "sting" is used to puncture the skin and pump venom into the wound. In worker bees the stinger has a barbed end. Once pushed into the skin the stinger remains in the victim. The venom sac will remain with the stinger. If left in the body the stinger will continue to pump venom from the venom sac into the victim. Queen bees have a longer and un-barbed stinger. Drones (males) do not have a stinger.
22-Stinger SheathThe hardened tube, from which the stinger can slide in and out.
23-Sting CanalThe sting is hollow, allowing venom to pass through the stinger. This is also the canal via which an egg is passed, when the queen lays an egg.
24-Venom SackHolds the venom produced by the venom gland, and can then contract to pump venom through the stinger.
25-Venoml GlandThe gland which produces the venom that damages tissue if injected into the body.
26-Wax GlandsWorker bees start to secrete wax about 12 days after emerging. About six days later the gland degenerates and that bee will no longer produce wax. The queen is continually laying eggs to maintain colony size and to produce more new workers that produce wax.
27-Ventral Nerve CordLike the nerve cord in our spine, which holds bundles of nerve fibers that sends signals from our brain to the rest of our body.
28-ProventriculusA constricted portion of the honey bee foregut or honey stomach, which can control the flow of nectar and solids. This allows honey bees to store nectar in the honey stomach without being digested.
29-

Honey Stomach (Foregut/Crop)

A storage sac, used in honey bees to carry nectar. The honey stomach is hardened to prevent fluids from entering the body at this location.
30-AortaBlood vessel located in the back of a bee that carries blood from the heart to the organs.
31-EsophagusPart of the bee digestive system that begins below the mouth and connects to the honey stomach.
32-Ventral Nerve CordSame as 27. This is a large bundle of nerves from the brain that sends signals to the rest of the bee's body.
33-LabiumIn bees a tongue-like appendage used to help drink up nectar. Like our tongue bees can taste with this organ. The labium fits inside of the maxilla (2), kind of like a straw.

What’s All the Buzz—How Do Bees Fly?

Have you ever wondered why you hear bees buzzing? Buzzing is the sound of a bee’s beating wings. Bees have two wings on each side of their body, which are held together with comb-like teeth called hamuli. These teeth allow the two wings to act as one large surface and help the bee create greater lift when flying. In order to beat these wings, a bee has muscles that cause its thorax to squeeze in two directions: both up-and-down, and left-and-right. The bee alternates these rhythmic thorax pulsations, kind of like how we breathe, but instead of pulling in air, these pulsations cause the bee’s wings to beat up and down.

This also allows bees to beat their wings very quickly and fly. Honey bees can beat their wings over 230 times per second.

Honey bee illustraton with wings out

Have you ever wondered how bees can fly?

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by volunteering, or simply sending us feedback on the site. Scientists, teachers, writers, illustrators, and translators are all important to the program. If you are interested in helping with the website we have a Volunteer page to get the process started.

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Honey bee illustraton with wings out

Have you ever wondered how bees can fly?

Share to Google Classroom

Be part of Ask A Biologist

by volunteering, or simply sending us feedback on the site. Scientists, teachers, writers, illustrators, and translators are all important to the program. If you are interested in helping with the website we have a Volunteer page to get the process started.