Day 7: Spiracles

The Twelve Days of Honey Bees, Day 7. A honey bee has seven pairs of spiracles on their abdomen.

Matching up these daily numbers is starting to get interesting. A spiracle is an opening in an insect or spider that enables the exchange of oxygen with the body. Honey bees have ten pairs of such openings: three on the thorax and seven on the abdomen. Yay for seven! The spiracles form part of the respiratory system in honey bees, as discussed in this post Do bees have lungs?

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Day 6: Legs

Welcome to the Twelve Days of Honey Bees, Day 6. A honey bee has six legs.

All insects, in fact, have six legs, often with one or more specializations. Most bees have a number of specializations on their legs, and this includes honey bees. An insect’s legs attach to the thorax and are normally composed of five main segments: the coxa, trochanter, femur, tibia, and tarsus. Honey bees have evolved a metatarsus in addition to the segments of the tarsus.

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Day 5: Eyes

The Twelve Days of Honey Bees, Day 5. A honey bee has five eyes.

Yes, indeed, a honey bee has five eyes. Two compound eyes as in most insects, and three ocelli that act as photoreceptors to detect the intensity and direction of light. The ocelli (plural of ocellus, of course) help honey bees navigate during flight. They likely aid foragers when following waggle dance instructions received from other bees.

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Day 4: Wings

The Twelve Days of Honey Bees, Day 4. A honey bee has four wings.

While we often think that flying animals have a pair of wings, as in birds, most insects have four wings that work together during flight. Bees, in particular, have a forewing and a hind wing that fold up separately against their body while at rest. During flight, a row of hamulus, or small hooks, link the two wings together so they operate in concert.

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Day 3: Body Parts

The Twelve Days of Honey Bees: Day 3. A honey bee has a three-part body.

Like all insects and all bees, honey bees have three body parts called the head, the thorax, and the abdomen. The head is where the bee’s eyes, mandibles, tongue (proboscis), and antenna are found, while the thorax is where the legs and wings attach. The abdomen holds the bulk of the bee’s internal organs and, of course, the stinger.

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Day 2: Antennae

Welcome to the Twelve Days of Honey Bees: Day 2. A honey bee has two antennae.

The antennae is the primary sensory organ for a bee, providing touch, smell, hearing, and taste all in two slender stalks. Each antenna is attached to the head in a bowl-like socket, followed by three main parts called the scape, the pedicel, and the flagellum.

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Day 1: Stinger

Welcome to Day 1 of the Twelve Days of Honey Bees, conveniently aligned with the Twelve Days of Christmas.

Honey bees, at least if they are female, have one stinger. The stinger in Hymenoptera insects, including bees, is a modification of the ovipositor gland, and as such only appears in females. Drones, or males, have hairy butts in place of a stinger. and you can distinguish a drone from a worker by looking at their rears. It’s not a common approach, since there are other more obvious differences, but next time you look at a drone’s butt you can think of me.

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O Honey Bee

It has been a couple years since I’ve done a Christmas post. I was inspired this year by a reader comment and my own thoughts of the season, so I’m introducing a new tune. This adds to my previous classics such as The mites before Christmas, O Little Hive in My Backyard, and my most recent Silent Hives. This will be my seventh post of a bit of Christmas poetry, based on the song O Christmas Tree. See the most recent post for the full list of songs.

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Book: Swarm Essentials

Winter is the time for reading in beekeeping. The colonies are clustered in their hive,s and we have time to think about and plan for the coming year. I recently finished the book Swarm Essentials by Stephen J. Repasky. I picked it up at the Virginia Beekeepers Fall meeting in November. I always struggle to prevent swarms, so this seems like a good book for me.

Repasky is a long-term member of the Eastern Apicultural Society (EAS) and was Director of the EAS Master Beekeeper Program for many years. So even though this was published in 2013 I was interested to see what the Repasky had to say.

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