Winter is almost over and Spring is right around the corner, that means you will be seeing a lot more of the furry fliers we all know and love: bees. They are friendly, productive and highly organized but aside from that, their physical appearance is something that still seems like a mystery to most people. After all, it’s hard to see them up close when most of them come with a painful stinger? Here is a closer look a few interesting features of the anatomy of a bee.
For starters, the mouth of a bee is a two-part setup. The first part is are the mandibles, or the jaw, that is used for chewing. Instead of moving up and down, like our jaw, the bees mandibles move from side to side. They don’t always protrude, however. When not in use, they fold up to stay out of the way. And while they are most renown for stinging, they actually bite as well, although to human skin it is hardly noticeable. They not only use their mandibles to eat, but they help them to attach to another bee while they simultaneously sting them. Bees also use their mandibles to defend themselves against spiders, wasps, ants, moths and beetles. Bees also have a long proboscis that they use to drink nectar from flowers. The proboscis is about 1/4inch long and they actually have two parts. The larger outer layer is used to suck up large amount of honey before they swarm and even when they infiltrate another colony to steal honey! The smaller inner layer is what they use to collect nectar from flowers and plants. And just like the mandibles, when the proboscis is not in use, it is curled up and tucked away.
The nest interesting physical feature about bees is the fact that they have 5 eyes! They have three smaller directly on top of their head that are used to detect light, making them able to see when something is approaching them from above. The other two eyes are called compound eyes and they are much larger and located on either side of their head. These two eyes are made up of many tiny lenses that they use to find flowers and food. The coolest thing about how these eyes work is that bees see ultraviolet rays, helping them find the perfect food. This is why their favorite colors are usually blue, violet and purple such as lavender, salvia and purple cone flower. Alternatively, they cannot see the color red at all! So, if you want bees to frequent your garden, stick to blues, purples and even yellow flowers!!
Female bees are the only ones that have stingers, the male bees, or drones, do not have them! When a bee is protecting itself against enemies, it can sting it’s victim multiple times. The stinger is actually barbed and that is why when humans get stung, the stinger gets stuck and breaks off, eventually leading to the bees death. If you are, in fact, stung, never pull the stinger straight out, use a credit card to scrape against your skin and pull the stinger out from a horizontal angle. The stinger holds the venom, therefore, the horizontal removal is key to getting it out without squeezing the venom into your skin. On average, a person can safely withstand 10 bee stings per 1 pound of weight. It definitely won’t feel good, but should you ever find yourself walking too close to a hive and suffer a few stings, you won’t need to seek medical attention. Another fun fact about bee venom is that it can actually be used medicinally to treat arthritis, multiple sclerosis and nerve pain!
Bees are cool, there is no doubt about that. But aside from their amazing pollination skills and delicious honey, knowing more about all of the moving parts of a bee really demonstrates just how complex they are. From a two-part mouth to an amazing set of eyes, they really are a cool addition to the animal kingdom. And while it is advised that you don’t take a closer look on your won, the next time you see a bee buzzing around your yard, just remember they are looking for purple flowers and sunshine.
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