The Anatomy Of A Honey Bee – Humanity’s Friends For Life 

​Honey bees are one of the most recognizable bugs in all of the animal kingdom. Their color scheme of black and yellow-orange is often reflected in our own culture; ranging from the Pittsburgh Steelers using it for their jerseys and logo, and even a hit song (Black & Yellow by Wiz Khalifa). The honey bee even has a hit animated movie based on their life cycle and natural production of said delicious honey starring Jerry Seinfeld! So what’s the blueprint behind this insect with so much influence on our culture, and how do they impact our lives? Join us as we delve into the anatomy of a honey bee.

What’s The Buzz About Honey Bees?

Arizona State University (ASU) shows a simple breakdown of their anatomy through their “Ask a Biologist” online hub. Bees have a hard outer shell called an exoskeleton, three main body parts including a head, thorax, and abdomen, a pair of antennae, three pairs of legs, two pairs of wings and a stinger (depending on their gender). That doesn’t sound like a lot, but there’s more going on behind the scenes of a bee’s body than meets the eye.

Besides their color scheme, the word “bee” is almost synonymous with the word “buzz”. That iconic bee buzzing comes from the sound of their beating wings, according to ASU. Those wings on both sides of the body are actually held together with comb-like teeth called “hamuli”, which allows the wings to act as one large surface, giving them greater lift while flying.

The anatomy of a honey bee cannot be talked about without mentioning their most important purpose in the animal kingdom; tree and flower pollination. Bees are one of nature’s best pollinators due to many factors; but it all starts with their eyes. ASU says honey bees can see ultraviolet light very well – and use it to find flowers who are ready to collect nectar from. That nectar is then used to create their delicious honey when the bees return to their hive and colony. When bees detect where the nectar is, they fly into flowers to collect it, while simultaneously whipping up and picking up the flower’s pollen. When the pollen is stuck to the bee, the flowering plants get pollinated – allowing them to produce fruits and seeds. Bees use the collected pollen to feed their queen and, in turn, their babies – making them big and strong!

Communication Is Key To Being A Bee

When looking at the anatomy of a honey bee, their eyes and antennae work together to communicate and reproduce. Male honey bees, also known as drones, have a striking pair of eyes that nearly encompass their entire head surface, and have a very specific purpose. Imagine a male bee is a character from your typical 50’s or 60’s era teen movie scene, straight out of “Grease” or “American Graffiti”. The guys in the movies are cruising around looking for girls; and in the drone bee’s case, their big eyes help them find a new mate while they’re flying around. In fact, that’s the drone bee’s only job according to ASU: they spread the genes of their colony.

Bees Understand The Power Of Dance

Since the guys are out looking for some new gal pals, that leaves the females to gather pollen and communicate with each other using their antennae and the power of dancing. This may sound like the plot of “Footloose”, but dancing is vital to the bee’s survival, as it allows the female bees to communicate with each other in order to find the best nectar and pollen sources. You may have seen it out in the wild – bees seemingly flying in patterns with themselves, as if they’re out just zipping around and enjoying the day. It turns out this dancing is part of a complex communication system that allows the bees to work together to make a strong overall hive.

Another big difference between female and male bees is the stinger: female bees are the ones with the stingers. Their stingers are an important tool to have out in the wild so they can fend off any potential predators looking to destroy the hive or interfere with their lunch time while looking for nectar. The bad news for the bee is once they use their stinger, that means the slow countdown to their own demise. Those stings are well known, and can even be dangerous for those with severe allergies to them or with other pre-existing conditions.

Bees are one of the most well-known and complex members of the insect family. They play a huge role in keeping our world alive and running, as well as creating the delicious and healthy fruits, vegetables and honey we eat every day. Knowing their anatomy will help you at home when you think you see one in your neck of the woods, and can help you figure out whether there’s a bee problem or hornet problem since the two species look very similar. The best thing to do if you see a bee out in the wild is to not panic. They’re much less interested in harming you than they are finding flowers to pollenate! Bees are helping us every day behind the scenes: so don’t mess with them!

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