Honey Bee Anatomy

Below is a diagram of honey bee anatomy for a worker bee. Scroll down the page for further explanatory notes.

Honey Bee Anatomy:

The Head

  • The hypopharyngeal gland
    The head of the honey bee contains the hypopharyngeal gland. This is a tube-shaped organ which secretes a protein substance that is fed to larvae, queens and drones. It is important in the production of royal jelly.
honey bee anatomy showing labelled parts including head, thorax and abdomen and their features, plus labelled appendages,
  • Eyes
    Honey bees have 5 eyes:

    2 compound eyes:
    these are made up of many hexagonal facets, meaning that they can simultaneously see all around them (above, below, side to side, in front). Like humans, bees are trichromatic, but whereas humans base their vision on red, blue and green, bees base their colour vision on blue, green and UV. This means that some colour combinations visible to bees, are not visible to humans. However, bees cannot see red, however, they do visit red flowers because they can see the UV patterns within the petals.

    3 simple eyes (or ocelli):
    the ocelli are 3 eyes positioned on top of the head. These eyes are sensitive to light, and aid the bee in its orientation.

  • The Proboscis
    This is a long tongue which the bees use to suck nectar from flowers into the mouth. (Read about why bees need nectar and pollen).

  • Antennae
    Antennae are vitally important in all insects, and thus have to be kept clean through hygienic behaviours – you may have observed bees using their legs to groom themselves, including their antennae. Antennae are vital for touch, taste and smell. They are used for communication within a honey bee colony, for locating food, for sensing predators, and even aid flight.


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. The thorax contains the flight muscles and salivary gland. There are 2 pairs of wings attached to the abdomen.

As with bumble bees, it is believed that honey bees beat their wings an amazing 200 times per second!


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. The honey stomach enables the bee to carry about 75 mg of nectar from a flower back to the nest or hive.

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 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 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.

Bumblebee stings are smooth. For more information, take a look at Facts About Bee Stings.

Learn more about honey bees.

More articles about bees

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