Tag Archive for: Anatomy

Honeybee Larvae

When we think of a honeybee, we typically envision the familiar image of a buzzing, pollen-laden insect diligently collecting nectar from flowers. However, behind this seemingly ordinary creature lies an extraordinary transformation, a journey through a series of distinct stages that showcase the wonders of metamorphosis.

Unlike many animals that develop gradually from birth to adulthood, honeybees undergo a complete metamorphosis, a process that involves radical changes in form and behavior. This incredible transformation begins with an unassuming egg, a tiny white pearl measuring about 1.5 millimeters in length.

After three days of incubation, the egg hatches, revealing a legless, grub-like larva. This seemingly rudimentary creature holds the potential for remarkable growth and development. Over the next seven days, the larva consumes a voracious amount of food, primarily a protein-rich liquid secreted by young nurse bees. This diet fuels a staggering growth spurt, leading to a 1,500-fold increase in size.  This is comparable to a mouse transforming into a german shepherd in seven days!

As the larva grows, it undergoes six molts, shedding its outer skin to accommodate its expanding body. Unlike the adult bee, the larva lacks an excretory system, and its waste is stored within its body. This waste will later be expelled when the larva transitions into the pupa stage.

After approximately seven days, the well-fed larva spins a silken cocoon and enters the pupa stage, a period of remarkable transformation. During this stage, the larva’s body undergoes a complete reorganization, developing wings, legs, and other adult structures. The larva’s digestive system is also modified, allowing for the passage of waste.

After about 11 days within the cocoon, the pupa emerges as a fully formed adult bee. This remarkable transformation marks the culmination of the honeybee’s metamorphosis, a journey that has taken it from a tiny egg to a buzzing, productive member of a complex social colony.

 Honeybee Antennae

Antennas are fascinating devices that receive signals from other places so that those signals can be converted into useful information. In our daily digital lives, we use antennas that pick up Wi-Fi and Bluetooth signals in our electronic devices and computers. In addition, we use TV and radio antennas to receive signals that are converted into sound and pictures.

When considering antennae in living creatures, aliens and insects are the first things that come to mind. Insects are very alien looking and may have been the model for how we imagine aliens!

Antennae exist for insects to serve a central purpose—to sense the world. Just like how humans have five senses, antennae exist to help insects touch, smell, taste, and, in some cases, hear what’s going on in the world around them. Antennae can pick up outside stimuli like air motion, heat, and sound. They’re often referred to as “feelers.”

For honeybees, antennae are arguably one of the most important sensory organs on their bodies. Honeybees have antennae to help them navigate the world—to find and taste food, find mates, sense direction, and sense danger. For us, it would be like having our noses and ears on our fingertips. Through their antennae, honeybees are able to communicate with other bees in the colony and assess their environment, which is essential to their survival and well-being.

If we were to compare honeybee antennae to human anatomy, the antennae would be a combination of our hands, nose, tongue, and ears all in one! Although bees can’t hear as we do, their antennae are useful for picking up sound vibrations around them. Studies have proven that bees are able to detect sound despite not having the same ears as humans. Some scientists even go as far as to say that antennae provide a magical sensory system since antennae can detect things that humans often aren’t very distinctly aware of, such as electric fields, humidity, chemicals, gravity, temperature, and wind speed.

Just like the worker and drone bees, queen bees also have antennae to help them sense what’s going on in the world around them. Like other bees, the queen bee uses her antennae to communicate with other bees and receive input from the environment around her. Queens, in particular, need to know the status of each honeycomb cell since honeycomb cells are where she deposits her eggs. Beekeepers often can spot queen bees investigating honeycomb with her antennae, likely determining the availability of an individual cell to receive a fresh egg.