How Many Legs Do Bees Have?

How-Many-Legs-Do-Bees-Have
Bees have three pairs of legs which is one of the reasons why they are classed as insects

Bees have three sets of legs for a total of six legs, which they use to walk, groom themselves, and collect pollen. Their legs can work independently or together to complete tasks that are crucial to the bee’s survival.

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    How Many Legs Do Bees Have?

    Bees have three sets of legs or six legs in total. The front legs are essential for grooming and cleaning pollen off of their bodies, while the middle legs aid with walking, running, and climbing. The middle legs also help to move the pollen onto the hind legs. 

    The hind legs are vital to pollination. Bees brush, pack, collect, and transport pollen and propolis on the back legs to bring it back to the hive. All of a bee’s legs have claws and sticky pads for gripping surfaces and taste receptors to identify preferred plants and flowers.

    What Are the Parts of a Bee Leg?

    Every bee has two forelegs, two middle legs, and two rear legs. Each leg is flexible and specially designed for different tasks.

    There are six key parts of a bee’s legs:

    Coxa This is the proximal part of the bee's leg that's connected to the body.
    Trochanter This is the medial part of the bee's leg that's connected to the coxa.
    Femur The part of the bee's leg that connects the trochanter and the tibia, similar to a human thigh.
    Tibia The part of the bee's leg that connects the femur to the metatarsus. The tibia is where bees collect and transport pollen.
    Metatarsus The fifth segment of an insect leg; the metatarsus holds specialized pollen-collecting tools like a pollen press, pollen brush, and an auricle, which is similar to a pincer.
    Tarsus Foot and Tarsus Claw The tarsus foot connects to the metatarsus and terminates in a tarsus claw, which can be used to grip surfaces and holds taste receptors.

    Bees also have joints similar to knees that connect the femur and tibia together and allow leg flexibility. 

    Honey bee hind leg under a microscope

    What Do Bees Use Their Legs For?

    Flying 

    Bees use their legs to stabilize their flight by extending them downward and pitching their bodies forward, creating lift forces that prevent rolling. With this capability, bees can fly in a straight line for up to 100 yards. 

    Legs can also aid aerial manoeuvres and help bees brace against wind turbulence. The hind legs are sturdy and help them stay steady in high winds, but doing so increases drag by 30 per cent and cuts into flight performance. Some types of bees can fly up to 15 miles per hour.

    Walking

    Bees fly from flower to flower, but they walk around on plants to collect pollen. They also walk in the nest to construct it and build honeycombs. In addition, legs allow bees to rest from flying by landing on flowers, plants, or other surfaces.

    Collecting Pollen

    A bee’s primary purpose is pollination. Pollen may be used to ripen eggs or in combination with nectar to feed larvae, while nectar is a sugary substance that bees eat. Bees use their hind legs to brush, collect, and transport pollen back to the nest, depositing some on flowers as they travel and aiding in pollination.

    Tasting

    Many bee species have taste receptors on the tarsus foot, though they also have taste receptors in their antennae and mouths. Bees can taste a flower or plant by landing on it, or by sticking their tongue out or sensing the air through antennae. Taste is vital for gathering food and identifying colony members.

    Sensing or Hearing

    Bees do not have ears like humans or other mammals, but they can detect sounds. They have subgenual organs, which can detect vibrations in the environment to perceive sound. The subgenual organ is located beneath the knee on the tibia. 

    Grooming and Cleaning

    Grooming and cleaning are essential to a bee’s health and its function as a pollinator. Bees are susceptible to many pathogens that can carry diseases back to the colony. 

    Bees need to groom the pollen off of themselves when they return to the hive. They can brush the pollen off of their eyes and faces to move it to the pollen basket on the hind legs. In addition, bees have antennae cleaners on their front legs to keep them free of bacteria and other microorganisms. To clean the antennae they form a ring by raising their foreleg and flexing the tarsus, allowing the spur to close the notch.

    Grabbing

    Bees use their legs to grip objects, such as surfaces or materials to construct the hive. When they land on flowers, they grip and shake them to release pollen and collect it. Bees also grasp and carry materials to build the hive or manipulate and bond wax into the cells of the honeycomb.

    Does Each Pair of Legs on a Bee Have a Specific Function?

    Each set of legs performs a specific function for a bee. The front legs are used to clean, groom, and grasp materials, while the middle legs aid in flying, walking, and maintaining flight stability. The hind legs have pollen baskets to collect and transport pollen and can be used to resist wind turbulence in flight.

    What-Do-Bees-Use-Their-Legs-For
    Each leg of a bee has it's own important role from collecting pollen to grooming

    Fun Fact:

    Bees’ legs are small but proportionate to their bodies. Different bee species have different leg lengths to adapt to tasks they perform or differences in their environment. Rediviva bees are native to South Africa and use long legs to extract oil from long-spurred flowers.

    Where Are the Pollen Baskets Located?

    The pollen baskets, or corbiculae, are located on the hind legs of certain species of bees. This is a polished cavity surrounded by small hairs, which are packed with pollen to efficiently transport it back to the hive. 

    To move pollen from the head and front areas, the bee grooms itself and pushes the pollen back to the pollen basket with each set of legs. 

    Do All Bees Have Pollen Baskets on Their Legs?

    Bees in the family Apidae have pollen baskets, which include honey bees, bumblebees, stingless bees, and orchid bees. Other types of bees have scopae, or a dense mass of elongated branched hairs that collect and hold pollen. 

    What Happens When a Bee Loses Its Legs?

    If a bee loses a leg, it may not survive. All six legs are necessary, and though a bee may be able to adapt to the loss of a front or middle leg, it won’t live as long as a bee with all of its legs. If a bee breaks a leg or experiences a similar injury, it may be able to survive with rest.

    What-Happens-When-a-Bee-Loses-Its-Legs
    Microscopic image of the parts of a bee leg

    Bees’ Legs Are Vital to Its Survival

    Bees have six legs that complement flying, feeding, and pollinating. Each set of legs serves a different purpose, from pollen collection to grooming to flight stability. Without these legs and their specialized adaptation, a bee may not be able to perform its vital function to the hive or ecosystem.

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