Bees Have 3 Main Body Parts

Honey bees are insects and that being, means they have 3 major body sections. These being :

  1. A head
  2. The thorax
  3. And of course, the abdomen.

The head is amazing and the eyes (they have 5 – but we will look at them in another post) allows the bee to process vast amounts of information in order to go about its daily business.

Obviously, the eyes are just one part of the head and as with any head you would expect to find a nose, mouth etc. With bees, they have an antenna (what we would might call a nose), mouth parts and many sensory hairs. The two antennas can work independently, furthermore, there is a very special structure within the antenna ” Johnston’s organs“. These structures are able to detect airflow and measures how fast the bee is flying – and how far. (just like a speedometer and odometer) and if you watch a bee closely when it returns to a hive, it will meticulously clean itself, especially its Antennas before leaving the hive again.

The Mouth.The Bee Proboscis or Bee Tongue

The proboscis functions just like a tongue and is  composed of 3 parts that come together to function like a straw. A useful tool to suck up water or delicious sweet nectar. The length of her tongue dictates which flowers she can harvest from, so if you are wanting a bee friendly garden, there are certain flowers which will be perfect for the bees (I will add a link for beneficial plants)

The Thorax: Middle Section

The middle bit of the honey bee, just after the head is called the thorax. The thorax is home to all the moving parts that make movement possible and it contains 3 pair of legs ( 6 legs – 3×2 ) and 2 pairs of wings (total of 4) – so essentially the Thorax is the engine room.

The Wings

A honey bee has 4 wings ( 2 pairs on each side). The front wings are larger than the back wings and are the front wings are connected to the back wings by small sets of hooks “hamuli” which enable the front and back wings to hook together and beat in unison but give flexibility and its the way in which they hook together and move that enables flight. – For years, nobody knew how bees could fly. It was the discovery of how the hamuli liked the wings and the range of movement/ articulation that they provided that led to the conclusion.

NOTE – Bees also use their wings to regulate the temperature of the hive by fanning their wings at the entrance, thus creating air movement and keeping a constant temperature inside which helps in rearing the next generation (brood).

6 Legs

Honey bees have 3 pairs of legs (6 legs). They use their legs for grooming as well as movement and interestingly, the hairs on the legs of worker bees are also used for carrying pollen and propolis back to the colony. These hairs are often referred to as “pollen baskets” (Drones and queens don’t have these)

The worker bees also use their legs for drawing comb and making beeswax.

Finally, the bottom or Abdomen

The abdomen of the honey bee is also made up of segments. The major organs that control digestion, circulation and respiration are located in the abdomen.

Also in the abdomen are the reproductive organs of the male bee (or drone) and queen bee. Males have internal testes that hold semen. (Worker bees have reproductive organs, but they are different from the queen due to a different brood development path)

The Queen Bee has large ovaries to produce many many many eggs (1500 or more per day) and a special structure called a spermatheca to hold semen. 

Both drones and the queen are important to the life of the colony. As the queen is the only bee that can lay fertilized eggs – so if the queen dies she must be replaced quickly by the colony.

Finally, the part everyone knows – The Stinger

Honey Bee Stingers (the stingy thing that hurts)

The stinger is a defence mechanism and without it, the colony could not survive. So lets break this down a little.

There are 2 different types of stingers in the colony.

The stinger is actually a modified “ovipositor”. (Its from where the eggs would emerge and be deposited into the brood chambers. Therefore, only the females have stingers (its a myth that all bees can sting).

The worker bees stinger is barbed, so when she stings a human, the texture of our skin combined with the barbs means that she can’t withdraw it from skin. So, if the worker bee stings you, she will die. When she departs, she leaves the stinger behind with the venom sack which continues to pump venom into the skin for a couple of seconds.

IF YOU ARE STUNG – DO NOT PULL THE STINGER OUT – BRUSH IT OFF. IF YOU SQUEEZE IT, YOU PUSH MORE VENOM INTO YOUR SKIN!!!!!!!

Honey Is Not Bee Sick/Puke/Vomit- The Honey Bee Crop – Honey Stomach

The crop or honey stomach is a special expandable structure. It is the true digestive tract of the worker bee. The crop stores collected nectar until the worker is ready to return to the hive. Since there is no digestion in the crop (its just storage)  Honey is not and cannot be called bee vomit (vomit is digested stomach content that is expelled) and without this very special ability, there would be no honey.

FAQs About Honey Bee Anatomy

What type of legs do honey bees have?

Honeybees have 6 legs – 3 on each side. The front legs are designed for cleaning antenna and moulding wax. The rear legs are designed to carry pollen back to the hive.

Do bees need potty breaks (pooping)?

Yes, my wife is always reminding me of how she sometimes has to redo the laundry when the bees have been near our fountain or other places and it happens that their flight path crosses her washing. So yes, Honey Bees do defo poop but they try to only expel wastes when outside the hive. Those little yellow splotches on your washing, or your car or even windows…. might just be honey bee presents for you. But it easily washes off and is not icky or anything.

Do honey bees have a heart?

Honey bees have an open circulatory system. They do have a heart structure but no arteries or veins.

Do honey bees have blood?

Honey bees do not have blood.(not in the traditional sense) Instead, they have a clear liquid called haemolymph that circulates within them and carries all the essential nutrients they need to survive. The main difference is that unlike our blood carries oxygen, The haemolymph does not.

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