Below is a diagram of honey bee anatomy for a worker bee. Scroll down the page for further explanatory notes.
1. Bees have knees but they don't have toes.
2. Bees have a digestive system, but they don't have kidneys, and they have no pancreas but they do make insulin.
2. Bees have a heart that runs from the brain, through the thorax and down the back of the abdomen.
The thorax is the upper part of the body between the abdomen and head. There are 3 pairs of spiracles on the thorax (see below).
The thorax is the anchor for the legs – the hind legs also featuring pollen baskets (or corbicula). The forelegs are used for cleaning the antennae.
There is a well-known saying 'the bee's knees'. In fact, bees really do have knees.
However, bees do not have toes, but instead have a tarsal claw. You can read more on the page: do bees have toes.
The thorax contains the flight muscles and salivary gland. There are 2 pairs of wings attached to the abdomen.
Most of the spiracles are located along the sides of the abdomen. Spiracles are holes which are important for breathing. They enable oxygen to pass into the body (through the spiracles) and into the tracheal system.
The abdomen contains the honey stomach, also known as 'the crop'. The honey stomach enables the bee to carry about 75 mg of nectar from a flower back to the nest or hive.
Most of the process of digestion takes place in the midgut located in the abdomen.
The sting is a modified ovipositor (egg laying organ). Only females are able to sting, and do so only when they feel threat of attack.
The sting of a honey bee is barbed and is intended for stinging predators such as other insects, however, it is not adapted for stinging humans.
Thus to sting a human means death for the honey bee, since the barbed feature results in the sting becoming lodged in the skin, tearing the abdomen of the bee as it attempts to pull away.
The sting also houses ducts that secrete alarm pheromones.
- See links to other pages on this site for further information.
- Hung YS, Ibbotson MR. Ocellar structure and neural innervation in the honeybee. Front Neuroanat. 2014;8:6. Published 2014 Feb 19. doi:10.3389/fnana.2014.00006
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