Things About Honey Bee Anatomy You May Not Know

Honey bees are interesting creatures. It’s no wonder mankind has been fascinated with them for centuries. Here are some things about honey bee anatomy that you may not have known.


You may be familiar with the honey bees compound eyes, the eyes on the side of their head. But did you know that honey bees also have three other eyes on the top of their head? These are simple eyes called ocilli. They are believed to be used for determining the location of the sun relative to their current position. This helps them preform the Waggle Dance accurately.

Courtesy: Bee Informed Partnership
Courtesy: Bee Culture

Also, honey bees are able to see further into the ultraviolet spectrum. As such, they can see things on flower blooms that we can’t. This makes them more attracted to some blooms than others. They also can’t see as far into the infrared spectrum as we can. So they can’t see the color red very well. Commercial beekeepers will use this to their advantage by using forklifts with red lights to cause less disruption when moving colonies. This also allows us to use red light to study a hive for research purposes without disrupting the hive. For more information on honey bee vision, check out this article from Bee Cultured:


Honey bees are covered in hair. Even between their eyes! But this hair is different than ours. Human hair is singular and straight. Honey bee hair is branching. This serves two purposes. The first is that as the bee flies about, she is building an electrostatic charge due to the hair branches’ interaction with the air. Then, when the bee lands on a suitable bloom for a nectar feeding, the electrostatic charge causes pollen to stick to the hair. This leads to the second factor. The branches allow for more pollen to stick to the bee, which allows for more pollen to be collected. The bee will concentrate this pollen on her back legs and will bring it back to the colony for storage.

Closeup of hairs on the thorax of a worker bee. Notice that each hair is branched, enabling it to trap pollen grains more effectively. Photo courtesy of Zachary Huang.

Wax Glands

On the underside of the bee’s abdomen are special glands that secrete beeswax. This wax is chewed and placed in an area where it’s needed, usually to make comb. Once a bee reaches a certain age, these wax glands will activate. But the bee will reach an age where the glands shut down. This usually coincides with the bee moving to doing jobs outside of the hive, like foraging for nectar. For more information on wax glands check out this article from Bee Culture:

Here is another article that covers some more technical terms and aspects of honey bee anatomy. I hope you learned something about the honey bee that you didn’t know before.

Adult Bee Anatomy (Basic Bee Biology for Beekeepers)


Posted: November 1, 2022

Category: AGRICULTURE, Livestock
Tags: #ocextensionnews, Beekeeping, Bees, Honey Bees, Ocextension

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