Honey Bee Body Parts


The external and internal anatomy of the honey bee corresponds essentially to that of other insects. The same can be said of physiology, vital functions. However, there are differences that need to be indicated for a better understanding of their behavior.

Logically the anatomical peculiarities and the vital functions are interrelated.

External anatomy of the bee:

The bee belongs to the animal kingdom, and within it, to the type of arthropods, to the class Hymenoptera insects (membranous wings) and family of aphids.

The body of the honey bee is divided into head, thorax, and abdomen, parts that are joined and move with each other. The external skeleton is composed of chitin, which gives the insect the necessary stability, protects the three large parts in which the body of the bee is divided; In the first two forming rigid boxes and in the last of extensible form.

The exoskeleton, which has the differential peculiarity with vertebrates to be external and therefore definitively limits growth, lodges in its interior the soft organs, in reverse of the superior animals, where the soft organs cover the skeleton.

It is constituted by the cuticle that forms two layers: a very hard exterior and an interior. Inwardly, the exoskeleton is covered by the basement membrane, where the muscles are inserted.


The chitinous head, which has the shape of an inverted triangle, houses the organ of vision (simple eyes and compound eyes), the antennae and the oral apparatus. It is attached to the thorax by a narrow, membranous neck.

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The head consists of six sclerites intimately welded together.

The simple eyes or ocelli, three in number, are located on the top of the head, between the compound eyes, are coated with tactile hairs and have a very simple structure.

With them, you can see the bee at close range, and in almost dark conditions inside the hive. They have been found to be light-sensitive organs and are used as photometers, determining the beginning and end of the working day.

The two compound eyes are formed by numerous hexagonal facets and each of them by thousands of simple eyes (3,000 in the queen, 6,000 in the worker and 13,000 in the drone). The shape of the facets makes one think of the type of construction of the combs.

The vision of colors varies with respect to human vision. They have more visual acuity on the ultraviolet side of the spectrum. On the red side, they are practically blind. They look very good blue, yellow, green-blue and ultraviolet.

The color red they see it as black and within the yellow, they confuse the orange and the yellowish green as if they were yellow.

The visual acuity is inferior to that of the man, but equal of time, the eye of the bee perceives 10 times more images.

It receives the polarized light, that is, the light in which the rays vibrate in a single plane.

The two antennas emerge from the center of the face, being very close to each other articulating with the head by means of a membrane. The antenna consists of a rigid part (escapo) and a flexible part (flagellum) that is divided into segments (artejos). The portion that follows the “escapo” is called peduncle or pedicel, is an artejo that is also part of the flagellum.

The number of artejos is of 12 in the queen bee and worker bee of 13 in the drone.

The antennas possess numerous sensorial organs, in hairy form and in plates or pores, in a number of 3,000, by the antenna in the queen, of 3,600 to 6,000 in the worker and about 30,000 in the drone, who are responsible for the touch, ear and smell.

The hair or hair organs are touch organs and cover most of the antenna, and the plates or pores are funnel-shaped and serve for a smell.

If we make a cross-section of the antenna, and observe it under a microscope, we will see inside it a network of very obvious nerves that serve as a receiving and transmitting device of sensations.


In the thorax is where the locomotor apparatus is located, being constituted by three segments or rings, which receive the following names from behind: Prothorax, Mesothorax and Metathorax and a small additional segment called propodeo.

In each segment it carries a pair of legs, and in the second and third they each carry a pair of membranous wings. They also have spiracles (orifices), through which air enters for the oxygenation of the thorax.

The thorax is also called “corselete” and in its upper part dorsal is where the queens are marked, with the color of the corresponding year according to the international color code, to identify the year of its birth.

As we have already seen, bees have three pairs of legs, and these are divided into nine pieces called artejos, two short, the first of which is attached to the body, three long (the femur, the tibia, and The tarsus), the latter being constituted by four pieces.

The first pair of legs is located in the protórax, and they have a series of devices or pieces that use them mainly for cleaning the eyes, with a kind of brush; Two pieces (vellum and comb or brush), the latter articulated, which is closed at will for cleaning the antennas.

In the last tarsus artifact it has two hooks, which use them to cling to surfaces on which it wants to walk, which may be smooth or rough, and also to cling to other bees, forming the so-called wax chain, or when they swarm From the classic ball or swarm.

The second pair of legs are located in the mesothorax and have no special features.

In this part of the thorax opens the first pair of stigmas (spiracles), of great importance in the diagnosis of the disease called Acarapisosis.

These legs have at the end of the tarsus a hook or spur that they use to detach the pollen balls, which they carry in the “baskets” of the third pair of legs.

A kind of brush, they use it for cleaning the wings.

The third pair of legs are located in the metathorax and are the largest.

These legs have the devices for storing pollen and propolis, called pellets or “pollen baskets”, which are located on the outside of the tibia, these baskets have strong and somewhat curved hairs, which allows them to retain pollen or Propolis collected from the flowers or shoots that visit the bees, after being kneaded with the jaws.

Pollen “baskets” only have the workers, on the contrary, the queens and drones lack them because they do not need them.

In this third pair, they have another device, which they use as a clamp to collect the wax lamellae made in the wax glands and later pass them to the jaws for their kneading and later building honeycombs.

The wings are found in the thorax, the first two largest are inserted in the metathorax and the other two smaller in the mesothorax.

These two pairs of wings are formed by a very thin and transparent membrane and reinforced by a network of chitinous veins, which at the same time allow the irrigation of hemolymph (blood of the bee) and the supply of oxygen.

They have convex ribs and concave ribs and have, in a given area, an arrangement and measure (ulnar index) that serves to classify the different breeds of bees.

When the bee makes long flights it joins the two wings by means of hooks or hooks to form a single big wing that makes the flight much faster.

On the other hand, when making precision flights to visit the flowers and collect the nectar or pollen, they are disengaged and can remain still in the air like the dragonflies.

The abdomen:

The abdomen consists of 9 segments, but only 6 are visible in females and 7 in males. The abdominal segments have two plates each, called the dorsal “tergitas” and the ventral “esternitas”, these being linked by flexible membranes, which allows a great variety of movements, such as lengthening or shortening and also curving in any direction.

The intersegmental membranes of the sternites, of weak consistency, are perforated by Varroa destructor to feed on the hemolymph of the bee.

In each tergite, they have a small hole that are stigmas or spiracles, where the air enters the interior of the insect.

The abdomen is covered with hairs, and according to their length and coloration of the segments are indices that are also used for the identification of the different breeds of bees. In the abdomen, we find the wax glands, Nosanoff gland, and defense apparatus.