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.

Bee wings have three layers: two thin membranes encasing a central hemolymph layer with the nerves and blood vessels. The outer layers consist of an elastic protein called resilin that provide flexibility and strength. For a detailed discussion of honey bee wings, see this Bees Wiki page.

My bees in June 2022 showing off their wings. Can you tell the drones from the workers?

Honey bees also use their wings to generate air currents in the hive for both cooling and honey preparation, and to distribute Nasonov pheromone to alert other bees of the location of the hive, such as during swarming. Bee wings are so distinctive that you can often identify the genus and sometimes the species of a bee from the wing pattern alone. As discussed in the link, honey bees have a distinctive rounded marginal cell in their wings.

May you prosper and find honey.

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