Anatomy of the Honeybee

While it may not lick your hands and nuzzle your cheek like our ancient friend, the dog, the honeybee may top the list as the earliest domesticated animal.  For millennia, it has motivated us with its discipline, captivated us with its supremely organized behavior, and endowed us with its goods and services.  Images of the honey bee have appeared in the art and folklore of the human species for thousands of years.

With its imagery appearing in the art, folklore and literature of the human species for thousands of years, the honeybee symbolizes the virtues of community loyalty and a strong work ethic.  Now, for some unknown and troubling reason, its numbers are declining.  The loss raises the specter, not only of lower supplies of honey and wax, but also of vastly reduced produce from our fields and the further crumbling of our environment. See Colony Collapse Disorder.

The Anatomy of the Honeybee

The honeybee – originally imported to North America from Europe by English colonists in the 17th century to pollinate crops in Virginia and Massachusetts – counts wasps and ants among its closest cousins.  Like all insects, the honeybee has an exoskeletal body with three parts: the head, thorax and abdomen.  It has two pairs of wings and three pairs of legs.  Like the wasps and ants, it has a pinched waist. 

Honey bee on a flower

The honeybee’s triangular-shaped head has five eyes, two antennae, the mouthparts and the brain.  Its thorax supports its wings, legs and muscles.  Its abdomen contains vital parts, including heart, stomach, gut, reproductive organs and stinger.  The worker honey bee's hind legs have surface depressions surrounded by long hairs, a feature that serves as a basket for transporting pollen to the hive. 

The worker honeybee’s body has numerous thick hairs to which pollen clings during visits to flowers.  Its hind legs have surface depressions surrounded by long hairs, a feature that serves as a basket for transporting pollen to the hive. 

Its stinger – the only example of a barbed stinger among North America’s insects, according to Floyd Werner and Carl Olson, Insects of the Southwest – remains embedded and still venomous, difficult to remove from the skin, once the honeybee has driven it home.

Bees by hive entrance


Honey bee at work in slow motion.



Killer Bees - Africanized bees
Carpenter Bees
Discover the World of Insects
Plants & Wildlife Links
Insects and Spiders




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