How Many Legs Do Bees Have? Fun Facts You Didn't Know Before

Aryan Khanna
Feb 29, 2024 By Aryan Khanna
Originally Published on Dec 16, 2021
Edited by Katherine Cook
Fact-checked by Pradhanya Rao
European wasp bee.
Age: 3-18
Read time: 6.9 Min

Bees are insects belonging to the Apoidea superfamily and are closely related to wasps which are insects with wings but are different from bees.

There are more than 16,000 species of bees and they are primarily divided into two groups on the basis of how they live, whether they live in social groups or are solitary bees. The main function of a honey bee is to produce honey and carry out pollination for certain kinds of plants.

Bees are found in all parts of the world apart from Antarctica due to its harsh climatic conditions and there are no plants that depend up insect pollination for reproduction. A fall in the number of honey bees in the world has led to a downfall in plant pollination carried out by insects. There are now commercial beekeepers. In terms of bee anatomy, a bee's body is divided into three parts like most other insects. A head, thorax, and abdomen comprise a honey bee's body. A bee also has a pair of antennas and two pairs of wings to serve the purpose of gathering pollen and then carrying pollen to its destination.

A honey bee, like many other insects, has three pairs of legs, of these three, two are hind legs, two are middle legs, and the other two are front legs. These six legs have various functions and are an integral part of the life of a honey bee, whether they are worker bees or queen bees. An interesting fact about bees is that honey bees are the most well-known bee species in the world but European honey bees or western honey bees are the most common of all species in the world and are mainly preferred by beekeepers for their ability to produce quite a lot honey. These bees can even carry pollen better than most other bees.

If you enjoyed this article, why not also read about how many legs does a crab have and how many babies do mice have here on Kidadl?

How many legs does a bee have?

All kinds of bees, whether it is a worker bee, a queen bee, or a drone bee, whose purpose in the ecosystem might be different, have the same three pairs of legs, six bee legs in total. These six legs are divided into three pairs and these are the front pair of legs, the middle legs, and the hind legs. All six legs of a bee, whether it is the front legs or the hind legs, have a clear-cut purpose and are used just like all the other parts of its body.

With evolution, bees have undergone massive bodily changes to suit their ecosystem. Humans have realized that bee anatomy has evolved into one of the most efficient body systems among all insects. Taking a closer look at bee anatomy, a bee's body is divided into three parts. These parts are the head, the thorax, and the abdomen. The abdomen of a bee contains wax glands, the reproductive organs, and the stinger. You can perhaps never forget the experience of a bee sting, we often see the stinger organ of a bee in use by bumble bees, honey bees, and other bees. They use it to sting a potential predator for defensive purposes when they are away from their colony in search of food.

The next part of a bee's body is the thorax. The thorax forms the base of the wings and the six legs. The topmost part, the head of a bee contains the brain of the bee, mandibles, antennae, and eyes. Unlike most organisms on the planet, bees have two sets of eyes, one is the simple eye and the other is the compound eye, and the purpose of the latter is to help bees see the world in polarized light. On the other hand, the primary function of the simple eye is to collect UV light as this now allows bees to see pollen as a dark-colored object, making it easier. This makes it easier for honey bees or bumble bees to know where to land.

Do all bees have the same number of legs?

All kinds of bees living in a colony have the same number of legs. Queen bees, worker bees, and drone bees all have six legs. Additionally, bees' legs are divided into three pairs of two each namely hind legs, middle legs, and front legs.

Bees use all of their legs for walking but the front legs and the rear legs have some additional functions as well. Interestingly, all three of these pairs are divided into six segments and are found attached to the thorax. These six segments include the coxa, femur, trochanter, tarsus, tibia, and metatarsus. The metatarsus is a pretty important part as it plays an important role in collecting pollen, and it contains some rows of bristles which form a pollen brush, responsible for collecting pollen grains. A bee uses its front, middle, and rear legs for different purposes.

Group of bees near a beehive.

What do bees use their legs for?

A honey bee has six legs, and while all of them have one common function of walking, they have certain functions which are specific to the kind of leg. If you are wondering if bees even walk when they have wings for flying, flying does not always suffice and at times, bees need to walk and this is when they use all their legs.

Gathering pollen is one of the most important functions of bee legs. The hind legs of a honey bee and many other bee species are specially adapted to transport pollen grains from the flower to the hive or nest. Some bee species that notably gather pollen on their rear legs also have a pollen basket attached to their hind legs. These pollen baskets are made up of stiff hairs that can carry pollen and nectar for food. The bumble bee and honey bee are some of the species which fall under this category. There are some bee species such as the painted mining bee which has a powdery leg surface due to which pollen presses against its legs and is then carried away. The rear legs in honey bees have pollen baskets that help in collecting pollen, but the front legs perform perhaps an equally important function.

Studies have shown that honey bees have taste receptors on their legs. Other than legs, bees also use their jaws and tongues to detect taste. Other than taste, some organs in the legs of honey bees are also known to pick up sound vibrations. Antennae in bees are important organs as they help bees to pick up any chemical, light, and electric signals. In order to keep the antennae working properly, they need to be cleaned and maintained. This is when antennae cleaners present in the front legs of bees come into play because they help to keep the antennae of bees clean.

Did you know that when flowers do not release pollen easily, a bee uses its legs along with its entire body to shake up the flower and release pollen grains? Moreover, inside the hive of a honey bee, there are bees with different functions. The queen honey bee is responsible for the population of the hive, and worker bees are responsible for the maintenance of the hive. Royal jelly, a sticky liquid, is fed to queen bee larvae. Worker bees have special combs on their back legs along with a pollen press which helps them to keep the hive clean and carry the pollen from the flower to the hive.

Why do bees have six legs?

Bees have very small bodies that perform a variety of functions. The legs of a bee perform multiple functions because the same pair of legs performing the same task might become clumsy and inefficient. Multiple legs help in dividing the total work among them.

The six of these legs perform a number of tasks including cleaning the antennae, walking, having pollen baskets for collecting pollen, tasting, and for food. The rear and front legs have special functions and as they are at distant ends, neither interrupt with each other to avoid chaos.

Here at Kidadl, we have carefully created lots of interesting family-friendly facts for everyone to enjoy! If you liked finding out how many legs do bees have, then why not take a look at how many legs do ants have, or honeybee facts?

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Written by Aryan Khanna

Bachelor of Business Administration specializing in Marketing

Aryan Khanna picture

Aryan KhannaBachelor of Business Administration specializing in Marketing

A dedicated and hardworking content writer currently pursuing his Bachelor's in Management Studies from St. Xavier's University, Kolkata. Aryan aims to gain corporate exposure and enhance his skills while creating well-researched and engaging content that is SEO-friendly. Aryan is a talented individual who puts in the effort to overcome any obstacle in his way.

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