Honey Bee Anatomy

Honey bees have 3 body segments – head, thorax, and abdomen.

The head contains the eyesantennae, and mouthparts.

Eyes: Honey bees have 5 eyes. 2 compound eyes used for seeing shapes, and 3 small eyes at the top of the head used for seeing light. Honey bees see slightly differently than humans do. While we see within the visible light (colour) spectrum, honey bees see past that into the ultra-violet spectrum. This means that they can see colours that we cannot.

Flowers have evolved to take advantage of bee vision. Petals often have patterns in the ultra-violet spectrum. This attract bees and other pollinators to them and increases their chances of pollination.

Antennae: Two flexible appendages used for feeling and smelling.

Mouthparts: Honey bees have multiple mouthparts. The mandibles are used for grabbing food, working with wax, and biting. The proboscis is a retractable, sucking mouthpart consisting of multiple tubes, used for drinking water, nectar, and honey.

The thorax is the middle body segment of the honey bee. It contains the muscles that control motor function. The thorax is also the body part that the wings and legs are attached to. Like most insects, honey bees have six legs and two pairs of wings.

Honey bee legs have some very helpful features. The front legs have comb-like hairs for cleaning pollen from their bodies. There is even a spot for cleaning their antennae. Worker bees also have pollen baskets on their hind legs. As the worker collects pollen, they brush it down to their hind legs to the basket, which is a spike that holds the pollen securely in place.

Honey bees are too heavy for them to fly if their wings only moved back and forth. Instead, their wings twist and move in a figure eight pattern which is more powerful.

The abdomen of the honey bee contains important organs:

  • Wax glands: honey bees produce wax using glands on their bellies. The wax is produced in small scale shaped pieced that the bees can remove and use to build their comb. The wax starts out white in colour, and it stained yellow and brown as the bees walk over it with their dirty feet. 
  • Honey stomach: In addition to their regular stomach, honey bees have a special honey stomach for storing nectar before it is brought back to the hive. The honey stomach contains antibacterial enzymes that are introduced into the bee’s honey, which is where it gets its health benefits. 
  • Stinger: The stinger of a honey bee is made up of 3 parts and is attached to a venom sac. Only the worker bees and the queen have stingers. Worker bees have a barbed stinger that can only be used once, while the queen’s stinger is smooth. This means that the queen can sting multiple times! When a worker uses it stinger, it becomes detached from the bee’s abdomen along with the venom sac. 
  • Respiratory system: Bees have no lungs! Instead, they have small holes along the sides of their abdomen for air exchange called spiracles. The spiracles are connected to tubes (tracheae) that deliver the oxygen to the rest of the body.