10 December 2010
Apis Mellifera: The Life of the Western Honey Bee
Who would think that an insect less than an inch big could be of so much importance to the human society? Throughout the history of mankind, the Western Honey Bee has proven to be of many uses to the human society. The study of the honey bee has shown the true intricacy and efficiency of their colony. Each member of the colony works together in a nearly flawless environment of productivity. For these reasons, and many more, the Western honey bee has proven itself to be one of the most fascinating and useful insects there has ever been.
In order to be able to understand the honey bee and its colony, one must first learn about the bee’s physical make-up. Similar to a typical insect, the Western honey bee can be divided into three major sections; these sections are the head, thorax, and abdomen. The first section, the head, is a very intricate part of the body. The head contains the eyes, antennae, and the mouthparts. The eyes are an intriguing feature, seeing as the honey bee has two different types of eyes. The first type is the two compound eyes. The compound eyes are more of the typical kind of eyes. These eyes can sense light and color, though the bee’s spectrum of color varies slightly from the human eye’s spectrum. The honey bee also has three simple eyes, which are called ocelli. The only known function that these eyes serve is to sense the intensity of the light (Dade 65). The two antennae also play a crucial role in the life of the bee. The antennae are the nose of the honey bee, allowing it to sense odors. Along with sensing odors, the antennae aid in their ability to taste. The mouthparts of the honey bee contain the mandibles and proboscis. The mandibles are jaws that help in chewing, grooming, and several other functions. The proboscis is similar to the human tongue in the fact that its function is to lick and suck up nectar into the honey bee’s mouth. The next section of the bee, the thorax, contains the legs and wings. These both contribute to the mobility of the bee. There are six legs on a honey bee which come in three pairs. The legs perform multiple functions, among these being that they aid in mobility, grooming, and storing pollen. The honey bee possesses two pairs of wings, the front wings and the hind wings. These wings provide for very efficient flight, allowing the bee to beat its wings at an astounding rate of 200 times per second; they have also been known to travel up to 60 kilometers on one meal (Winston 26-29). The third and final section of the bee is the abdomen. The most well-known and feared function of the bee, the stinger, is found in the abdomen. Large portions of the bee’s digestive, excretory, circulatory, and respiratory systems are also found in the abdomen.
The internal systems of the honey bee are as fascinating as its physical qualities. Much like a human, the honey bee also has a digestive system. When a bee consumes food, it travels through its esophagus to its crop. While in the crop the food can be regurgitated and transferred to another bee. After passing through the crop, the food travels to the midgut. This is where the digestion and absorption of nutrients takes place in the bee. Then the digested food is either excreted through the rectum or used for energy.
The circulatory and respiratory systems of the honey bee are fairly simple with the dorsal heart and aorta being the main contributors in blood circulation. Unlike a human, the bee does not have veins and arteries for the blood to travel through. Instead, the blood fills the body cavity and enters the heart through the ostia. After passing through the ostia and heart, the blood travels to the head. The honey bee respiratory system also varies a great deal from the human’s. The honey bee breathes through holes called spiracles. These spiracles are...