ANATOMY OF THE BEE

I say, here’s another turn of fortunate events. Because I am quite certain that by the time you have completed your reading of this post you will have all quite enjoyed it. As always, I rely on the friendliest of terms and layman’s language as far as possible to get you in the mood for beekeeping and endeavor to motivate you to take your new hobby to the next level. Now, I am not matronising by any means, all I am saying is that I went through the same evolutionary process as you are now and I can tell you that it is well worth the journey.

I have a streak of naughtiness in me. I think it is necessary to have a good sense of humor as part of your persona. Being too serious minded while performing your beekeeping tasks can stress you more. Unlike mammals’ ability to smell fear in you from a mile away or dismiss you without a second thought if you happen to be fearless, the army of bees could not care less. Their main priority is to protect their hives and their mother, the queen bee, and her brood. Quite literally, actually. A brood is that part of the hive where she hoards her eggs.

So, they will strike the moment they sense that their territory is under threat. You need to be close to them, that can’t be helped, so please make sure that you are always wearing your recommended protective gear. My sense of humor, the naughty side of it really, almost got the better of me. I almost began this post with an announcement to; let’s talk about the birds and the bees. By now, you all know what that means. Strictly speaking, we are going to be rounding this post off with a partial outline thereof.

I thought I would introduce you to the anatomy of your (not so) average common or garden bee (which I really hope you will have in abundance sometime in the near future. It is not up for debate. Surely you will agree that a fairly good knowledge of your bee’s physiognomy will help you in your honey making processes. It will help protect you from the bees’ stings and it will also help you to look after them. Let’s begin with a quick dissection, shall we?

We will be focusing on the honeybee. After all, the final objective will be to produce honey, not so? The honeybee has three key body parts, namely; the head, the thorax and the abdomen.

HEAD

The bee’s head is made up of eyes, antennae and its feeding structures.

•    Simple eye – The honeybee has three such eyes. They are arranged triangularly. They help the bee to determine the amount of light in its immediate environment.
•    Compound eye – The bee has two compound eyes. Each eye is made up of thousands of light-sensitive cells. These cells help the bee to distinguish between color, light and direct info from the sun’s UV rays.
•    Antenna – This has to do with smell. The bee uses it to pick up odors and from where it comes. It also uses its antenna to measure its flight speed.
•    Mandible – This is the strong jaws of the bee. It is used for collecting pollen, cutting and molding wax, cleaning the hive (less work for us to do here, I suppose) and grooming themselves (hmm, I wonder whatever for). Quite possibly, the mandible’s most important function is that of feeding the queen and its larvae.
•    Proboscis – This is the tongue. The bee uses it for drinking water, nectar and honey. It also uses its tongue for the exchange of food.

THORAX

The thorax is made up of legs, muscles and wings, all used for movement. Can anyone guess how many legs the bee has? And what was your main thought when you named the correct number of legs?

•    Legs – The legs are also used for carrying pollen and tree resin. Hairs on the legs help the bee to dust off pollen. Legs are also used to clean the antennae.
•    Wings – The forewing (larger than the hind wing) is mainly used for flight. But it is also used as a fan for cooling the bee’s entire body. So too, the hind wing. It goes a step further by cooling the hive as well.

ABDOMEN

This is the most complex structure of the bee’s anatomy. What follows after this short description will probably interest you the most. So read on, folks. The abdomen is divided into seven segments. The male drone has reproductive organs, while the queen bee has the female reproductive organs.

THE BODY PART THAT MOST CONCERNS EVERYONE, ESPECIALLY BEGINNER BEEKEEPERS

The queen mother and her collective army of thousands of worker bees have a stinger. So now, onto the part of this overview that you’ve all probably been waiting patiently for. It’s what we all imperceptively fear the most about the little honeybee. But did you know that the moment it stings you, it dies. Shame. Poor creature. I hope for their sakes that none of your bees will ever sting you. Yes, I do hope for your sakes too. I would not want you to give up on making delicious honey for your neighbors and your local food markets.

The sting has two lancelets which are supported by hard plates. Muscles are connected to a poison gland surrounding the sting. Do not fear, folks, the little bee only ever uses its sting to defend itself and its hive.

And so to its death does it go. The moment the bee leaves its sting in the human body, its abdomen collapses, and then it dies.

And so there you have it. The anatomy of the bee in a honey pot. That wasn’t so bad, was it? I quite enjoyed this exercise, and believe me, it was quite an eye opener when I first started reading up about bees.