Anatomy of a Honeybee

A honeybee worker is about 0.5″ long. Like all insects, the honeybee’s body has three segments. The head is the first segment. The mid-section is called the thorax. The third segment is called the abdomen.

Honeybees have a lot of hair around their eyes. Their antennae are also on their head. Bees have specially developed mouths with a very long tongue. This enables them to reach the nectar in most flowers.

Workers make a special substance in the glands beside their mouth. Some people call this substance “Royal Jelly”. The workers feed this substance to the larvae that will grow into new queens. Honeybee workers also use their mouths to chew wax so it becomes soft and pliable.

The mid-section, or thorax is the part of the honeybee’s body where the legs and wings are attached. Honeybee workers use their back legs to carry balls of pollen back to the nest.

Honeybee workers use their wings to fan the honeycomb to keep it cool during the summer. On very hot days, they drop water on the comb while they fan it. Some honeybee workers can use their wing muscles to heat the nest on cold days.

The honeybee’s thorax is covered with pale hairs. This hair makes the bees look “fuzzy”. Bees’ hair is different from the hair of wasps. The hairs on a bee resemble tiny feathers or plumes. Each hair has tiny branches. Honeybees collect pollen on these plumed hairs as they move in and out of flowers.

The third segment of the honeybee’s body is the abdomen. The queen’s abdomen is pointed. The queen has an egg-laying mechanism, called an ovipositor, at the end of the abdomen.

Honeybee workers do not have an ovipositor. Instead, the workers have a venom gland and a stinger. The honeybee’s stinger is barbed at the end, so it often sticks in the victim’s skin. When a honeybee worker uses its stinger, the venom gland remains attached to the stinger in the victim’s skin.

Muscles on the venom gland can keep pumping venom into the victim after the stinger has separated from the bee’s body. Experts recommend using a scraper to remove a honeybee stinger from a victim’s skin to avoid squeezing more venom from the gland.