Buzzing through gardens, pollinating flowers, and making honey – bees are small creatures that play big roles in our world. But have you ever wondered what makes up a bee?
Just like us, bees have various body parts, each with a unique and vital function that allows them to buzz, fly, and thrive.
In this guide, we’re going on an adventure to explore the fascinating world of bees, from the tips of their antennae to the end of their stingers.
Body Parts of a Bee
Just like many animals, a bee’s body consists of three main parts:
- The head,
- Thorax, and
Each of these sections contains different structures or ‘sub-parts’, similar to how the human body is divided into different organs.
The head of a bee is an important part because many sensory organs are present here. It is made of five organs or subparts:
The two antennae are stick-like parts that move forward from a bee’s head. They are sensory organs and detect multiple things for the creature. For example, bees can smell things around them because of their antennae.
They can also hear sounds in the form of vibrations due to their antennae. Detecting carbon dioxide is also a function of the antennae. A bee uses this part to sense information and processes it to produce different body actions in response.
In males, 13 segments make a single antenna. Female bees have 12 segments. The antennae move in opposite directions and may appear L-shaped due to slight bending.
2. Compound Eyes
Humans only have one pair of eyes. Bees don’t follow the same pattern. They have two large compound eyes that you can always see easily.
Compound eyes have smaller eye units that take different images and send them to the bee’s brain. These individual images are compiled by the bee’s brain, creating a cohesive picture of the world around them.
These eyes are present to help the animal see polarized light. This light offers a sight similar to the one you see when wearing sunglasses. Such vision protects a bee from strong sunlight.
3. Simple Eyes Or Ocelli
All bees also have three simple eyes that have one lens. You can see them as three small bumps on top of a bee. Their main purpose is to see using UV light.
This light is important for the creatures to find pollen. Food sources appear as dark spots to bees due to their simple eyes.
When I explained these bee parts to my daughter Emma, she found all this very confusing at first. Looking at a picture helped her understand, so you should also show a bee image to your kids.
Proboscis is a fancy name for a bee’s tongue. It is a long straw-like part that you can see extending from a bee. The part is soft and can be extended.
A bee mainly places its proboscis in nectar to enjoy food. Cleaning their hair is also possible due to this part. Bees groom their queens using this soft tongue.
The meaning of mandibles in humans and bees is the same. They form the jaws of these little creatures. It is one of the strongest parts of a bee because it protects other mouthparts.
Bees can bite and cut through things using their mandibles. Remember, the purpose of this body part is different, depending on a bee’s role. Workers use jaws for chewing wax.
Queen bees use their jaws for cutting and biting due to pointed ends.
A thorax forms the middle body of a bee. It helps these creatures move and fly smoothly. Here are the two organs that form the main structure of the thorax:
All bees have two pairs of wings that are visible easily. They allow these insects to fly at a fast speed. Remember, these wings are divided into forewings and hind wings.
The latter is smaller than the forewings. Both of these types are necessary for helping the bee fly. Drones have longer wings than other bees to catch up to queens during mating.
Bees adjust their wings in a special way to take off into the air. Their flying speed varies from 15 miles per hour to 22 miles per hour. This depends on the bee type and wing length.
You can see three pairs of legs on each bee. This means they have six legs in total. They are named according to their position.
The two legs at the front are called forelegs. Then comes the two middle legs. Finally, the legs that are most behind are called hind legs.
These legs help the bee crawl into small spaces without difficulty. They can also have pollen baskets for easier storage of pollen.
The forelegs are mainly present to help clean the antennae. Special sticky pads are also there on a bee’s legs. They help bees stay in position on uneven surfaces.
An unusual thing about a bee’s legs is that their ends contain taste receptors.
An abdomen is the final part of a bee and may resemble a hive. It can be long or short, depending on the creature’s role in their community.
You may believe this part to be useless from the outside, but it has many internal organs for digestion and reproduction. For example, the heart and stomach of bees are present here.
Let’s look at the most important things that make up a bee’s abdomen:
A stinger is a part that helps the bee sting other animals and humans. It has been designed to let the creature protect itself. The sad thing is that a honeybee can die after they use their stinger on larger animals or humans.
This part sticks out from the behind of a bee. Remember, a stinger is not present in all bees. Worker insects have a spiky stinger that causes the bee’s death once it is used.
Drone bees don’t have stingers. A queen has the strongest stinger without any spikes. This means that she won’t get injured while using it, preventing her death.
The silver lining is that bees only use this part when they have no other way of defending themselves.
9. Pollination Organ
The pollination or reproductive organs in a bee are not easily visible. Appendages in drones remain hidden until they mate with other bees. These parts are stripped away from the drone on first use, so the creature dies immediately.
Female bees, or queens, have ovaries that produce eggs. When they mate with male bees (or drones), the eggs can be fertilized with the stored sperm. Bees have a spermatheca in their abdomen that acts as a storage basket for sperm.
When laying eggs, sperm from this basket is used. These parts allow bees to increase their population.
10. Wax Glands
Bees have to create wax to form their hive for storing honey. This is why they need something that will help them make this item. Wax glands are those things that let bees produce wax.
Worker bees have four pairs of these glands underneath the abdomen. They release liquid wax, which becomes solid when exposed to air. Solid wax appears as scales.
Young workers have the most active glands because of their duty of creating the hive. They can make 16 scales in one day. Bees require at least 1,000 scales to make one gram of wax.
This guide has covered all the essential parts of a bee – the head, thorax, and abdomen, each filled with specialized organs that help the bee thrive in its environment. Bees also have a brain that is present in the head region.
Looking at a picture of a bee will help you understand these parts better. Some parts, such as legs, also have subtypes due to different sizes or functions.