Brilliant Bee Anatomy Explained: Do Bees Have Lungs? | Kidadl


Brilliant Bee Anatomy Explained: Do Bees Have Lungs?

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Bees are generally referred to as pollinators since they help transfer pollen between various species of flowering plants.

Bees are very social animals and live in large groups called colonies. The colony contains the queen bee, the worker bee, and the drone.

Bees belong to the arthropods, to the class of Insecta. They are closely related to wasps and ants. There are around 20,000 different species of bees in the world. The honey bees and the bumblebees are the most widely recognized species. Bees carry pollen on their legs or body from one flower to another and thus help the plants reproduce. Bees are known to produce honey. They produce nectar from pollen and nectars of plants they pollinate. Honey is generally made by them to feed their young and also a food reserve for the winter season. Humans have kept bees for a long time. Bees, like honey bees, have been domesticated for the collection of honey, wax, nectar, or royal jelly. Jars of honey have been found even with Egyptian mummies. Unlike humans, bees don't have a circulatory or respiratory system working together. They too, like other insects, have a respiratory and circulatory system. Although these systems remain separate in the body of the bee. So do bees have lungs? After you have read about the air flow in and out of a bee, do read about the difference between bees and wasps and why do bees sting?

Why do bees not have lungs?

Large mammals have a respiratory and a circulatory system that works together mutually. This system helps to transfer oxygen to different parts of the body. This includes the flow of air through our mouth or nose to our lungs and the gas exchange taking place in our lungs and flowing throughout the body to various cells and tissues. But do bees have lungs?

The oxygen is specifically transferred to the microscopic cells in our blood called RBC. We breathe oxygen through our mouth or nose and our lungs add the oxygen to our blood cells and remove the toxic carbon dioxide from it. It is then transferred to the heart, which pumps it to different body parts, providing them with the sufficient amount of oxygen needed. Hearts have different valves to circulate the blood. The oxygenated blood and deoxygenated blood are carried by different veins and arteries to different valves of the heart. Since mammals are large and require a lot of oxygen thus they are able to afford such a complicated system. So, do bees have lungs?  While most arthropods like bees, ants, and other insects don't require such a complicated system. Thus nature has provided them with easy anatomy. This Bee's body has a different system than ours.

Bee's body has an open circulatory system. They don't have any veins or arteries. They don't really even have blood. But they have a blood-like liquid called hemolymph. This blood has a very minor role in the transportation of blood to cells, tissues, and different organs. And most of this process of circulation of oxygen and carbon dioxide is carried out by their respiratory system. We will read more about the process in detail ahead!

How do bees breathe without lungs?

The respiratory system in bees is known as the tracheal respiratory system. This extends through their whole body, which includes air sacs in the head, abdominal region, and thorax. In bees, the exchange of oxygen and carbon dioxide is carried by the bloodstream but rather a well-developed tracheal system. Since they don’t have lungs, they breathe with the help of air sacs, and this developed, the tracheal system.

There are basically three main parts of a bee tracheal system.

Spiracle: there are around 20 thoracic spiracles(ten pairs) found in bees. The spiracle in the tracheal system close and open by contracting and relaxing (expand)  muscles against the wall of the abdomen (in the abdominal region)  and thorax. Although these spiracles can be closed when bees are underwater but the spiracles close only until the time they exhaust their oxygen supply. The first pair of spiracles are located on the thorax. The second pair of spiracles is between the front and hind wings. Third pair of spiracles by the side of the thorax. The next six pairs of spiracles are located on the abdomen and the last one in the sting chamber.

Tracheal Sacs (air sacs): the tracheal system consists of air sacs. These air sacs are connected to the trachea that runs to each muscle and tissue of the body. They can contract and relax (expand), creating a change in pressure. Along with the change in pressure and pushing the air to the Trachea due to the contractions.

Tracheae and Tracheoles: a large number of the trachea are connected to the tracheal sac and function the same way as the arteries in our body. They are like a large network of tubes that connect tracheal sacs or the air sacs to different muscles of the body. The tube carries oxygen to the vital organs in the body of the bee.

Which species of bees can breathe submerged in water?

Insects have more systematic and organized respiratory systems than humans. In proportion to their body size, they can take in more volume of oxygen at once. Most insects are known to recycle the oxygen that they breathe once in a process called discontinuous gas exchange. Thus, they are known to survive for a long time without breathing continuously.

There are around 20,000 species of bees in the world. To be honest, none of them can survive underwater. Though insects have a huge advantage to survive for a longer duration without constant breathing, this does not mean they can breathe submerged in water. Bees cannot breathe underwater as their respiratory system is not designed that way. But there may be some other ways the bees can use to breathe oxygen while submerged in water. Bees can chase down an enemy underwater as well. The bubbles that are formed while chasing their enemies underwater can be used by them as sources of oxygen. They can take in a larger volume of oxygen at once that can last for a very long time. They are known to survive longer underwater than humans. Even if bees try to breathe in the oxygen underwater through their spiracles they would ultimately drown and eventually die since the spiracles won’t function.

European honey bee on a flower.

What is the most common way bees suffocate?

Bees don't breathe using a lung or a gill. They have tiny air sacs called spiracles.

The most common way by which they can suffocate is by drowning them. When the water enters the sacs, it could disturb the exchange of gases, which could easily drown them and suffocate them to death. The tracheal mite is an internal mite which attacks the respiratory system of the honey bee and suffocates it.

How do bees breathe when wet or when it's raining?

Bees breathe through air holes or air sacs known as Tracheal sacs. They don't have lungs as we do. But bees breathe with the help of these air sacs. These tracheal sacs or air sacs are located in their heads or throughout their body in the thorax and in the abdominal region. They breathe by using 10 pairs of thoracic spiracles to take in the air. Since they do not have lungs, their only option to use is the air sacs.

Bees do not have any nostrils or gills or lungs to breathe in the fresh air. They use these valves called spiracles to breathe in the fresh air. Bees don't fly usually when it's raining. Since they use the sun for navigation, the black clouds and the humid weather are not really liked by them. Though they can fly in light rain, during heavy rains, they seek shelter until the rain lessens. Since raindrops can make their wings wet and slow them down. Not only that, heavy rain can easily break its wings or knock them down. It can bring them down in a puddle of water and a bee could easily drown in it. So the bees basically try to ignore such situations. While it is not difficult for them to breathe when wet, since they have 10 pairs of spiracles. Also, they have three pairs of legs, the front pairs are specially designed to clean the antenna and rear parts. They can easily manage breathing in the rain and also, they can take in a large volume of air at once and can survive without constant breathing for a longer duration of time.

Do other insects breathe like bees?

All the arthropods have similar respiratory and circulatory systems. This includes the majority of insects including cockroaches, ants, wasps, grasshoppers, caterpillars, bees including honey bees.

All these insects, unlike humans, don't possess any gills, nostrils, or lungs. An insect's body is completely different from ours. They have holes in their body. These air sacs are known as thoracic spiracles. Spiracles are present all over the body of the insects. Different insects have different pairs of spiracles on their body. They then pump the oxygen using the tiny tubes present in their bodies known as the trachea which delivers oxygen directly to the different muscles and tissues present in their bodies.

Do bees control their own breathing?

Bees use a tracheal respiratory system, which is completely different from our respiratory system. They breathe in air through different pairs of spiracles present on their body. They then use their tiny tube system called the trachea to deliver the oxygen directly to different parts of the body.

Bees don't breathe with their nose and don't have lungs to breathe. Also, bees cannot hold their breath. So, in general, bees cannot really control their breathing. But on the other hand, bees can take in a large amount of air in a single take. They can also recycle it and thus avoid constant or continuous breathing. Like this, as compared to humans, they can live for a longer duration without breathing.

How does a bee's respiratory system compare to humans?

A bee's respiratory system is very different from that of any mammal including humans. Humans have a respiratory system that works mutually with the circulatory system. The air we breathe through lungs contains oxygen which is transferred to different body parts through our blood. This system is completely different in insects like wasps, bees, or ants.

The respiratory system in bees is known as the Tracheal respiratory system. They have a separate circulatory system too. Compared to humans, instead of breathing in oxygen through their nose or mouth, the bees have pairs of holes in their bodies called spiracles. There are 20 spiracles arranged symmetrically along each side of their body. Three pairs of spiracles are located on the thorax, while seven pairs of spiracles are located on the abdomen, including the one spiracles located in the sting chamber. These spiracles have valves that control the flow of airflow in and out of the body. When the abdomen contracts and relaxes (contract and expand), they allow oxygen to directly enter the different body parts of the insects.

Instead of our lungs, bees have tracheal sacs which connect them to spiracles through a network of tubes called the trachea. These sacs are located throughout their body to the head, abdomen, or to thorax.

The respiratory system of honey bees is prone to various health problems including the attack of the tracheal mite. This microscopic mite attacks the respiratory system and can infect the whole colony of the bees. The tracheal mite can shorten the lifespan of bees and can damage a whole colony.

Here at Kidadl, we have carefully created lots of interesting family-friendly facts for everyone to enjoy! If you liked our suggestions for do bees have lungs?, then why not take a look at why do bees make honey, or bee facts.

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