A honey bee is approximately a half of an inch long. Though tiny, it is made up of many complicated and interesting parts. The honey bee is one of the most streamline designs of any creature. Each part is tailored to a specific purpose, and does that purpose well.
The body of a bee is made up of three main sections. The Head, the Thorax and the Abdomen.
The head of the honey bee holds the brain which is only about a millimeter cubed in size. Though it has a small brain, it has over 950,000 neurons. “The bee brain is one of the most densely packed with neurophil tissue known of any animal.”
Coiled in the head above/behind the eye are the Hypopharyngeal Glands which only worker bees have. These glands make royal jelly.
2. Simple Eyes/ Ocelli
The bee has 5 eyes. The 3 smaller eyes or Ocelli perceive light. These eyes can also see UV light which helps in the detection of pollen in the vast landscape. Pollen appears as a black dot, which is easy to distinguish from other objects.
3. Compound Eye
The bee has 2 compound eyes which are covered in thousands of individual lens called Ommatidia. These allow the bee to see “in front, to the side, above and below itself.”
A bee can also see all colors but red. Red appears black.
The bee has 2 antennae which are divided into segments. Female bees have 13 segments where drones have 12.
The antennae serves many purposes to the bee. It has over 170 scent receptors. And is used to determine “air speed and orientation during flight.”
It is also used to communicate with other bees. “Bees use only the right antennae to communicate.”
The Mandibles on a bee are like the jaws. These powerful chewers are used to “fight, to mould and cut wax and to chew at flowers to get at the nectar.”
The proboscis is like a tongue in that it is flexible and able to lap at things, but also like a straw, able to suck up nectar.
The thorax is the second main body section of the bee. This section is all about transportation. It holds the wings and legs.
8 & 9. The Front and Rear Wings
The wings of a bee are divided in two sections. The front and rear wings. The wings can be held together by a small “row of hooks called hamuli” for flight. Or they can be detached and folded down.
A bee can fly 15 miles per hour and can travel as much as 3 miles from the hive. The buzzing you hear when you’re near a bee is the rapid flapping of its wings. “They can beat 11,400 times a minute.”
A bee has 6 legs which of course it used to walk on. But the legs also serve other functions. The front legs are used to clean the antennae. The middle legs are used to push pollen into the pollen baskets on the back legs.
“The foot of a bee has claws for gripping and a sticky pad for holding on to slippery surfaces.”
The bee also has taste receptors on its feet.
12. Pollen Basket
As the bee collects pollen on the hairs of its body, it presses them into the pollen basket on the back legs. It mixes the pollen with a bit of sticky nectar to form a yellow pillow to carry back to the hive.
13. The Abdomen
The last section of a bee’s body is the abdomen. Within the exoskeleton of the abdomen is the bee’s internal organs like the digestive system, the reproductive organs, the wax glands, the venom pouch and the honey crop, which is a pocket where the bee can hold up to 1/3 of it’s weight in nectar or honey.
Only Female bees have a stinger. The worker bee’s stinger is barbed, where the Queen bee is not. Because of this, the Queen can sting multiple times, where a worker bee is only able to sting once. The barbs prevent the bee from removing the stinger once inserted into the victim. A sting is fatal to a worker bee.