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Anatomy of a Honey Bee

The honey bee is one member of the insect class Insecta. These insects are members of the subfamily Apinae, which produce and store liquefied sugar, otherwise known as honey.

The body of the honey bee is segmented: stinger, legs, antenna, three segments of thorax and six visible segments of abdomen.

The head of the honey bee consists of the eyes, antennae and feeding structures. The eyes include the compound eye and the simple eye: the compound eye helps bees understand color, light and directional information from the sun’s UV rays, while the function of the simple eye, also called ocelli, helps in determining the amount of light present. The antennas’ function is to smell and detect odors and to measure flight speed. The mandible is the bee’s jaw, which is used in eating pollen, cutting and shaping wax, feeding larvae and the queen, cleaning the hive, grooming and fighting. The tongue, or proboscis, allows the honey bee to drink nectar, honey and water. It also functions as the medium for food exchange between bees.

The thorax of the bee consists of the wings, legs and the muscles that control their movement. The forewing, which is typically larger than the hind wing, is used for flight and as a cooling mechanism, while the latter is used to fan away heat and cool the hive. The legs are also important to transfer pollen and propolis, a resinous mixture collected and used as a sealant in hives.

Lastly, the abdomen’s six segments include female reproductive organs in the queen, male reproductive organs in the drone and the stinger in both workers and queen. The stinger is a defense mechanism which, once used, causes the bee to die.

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