Is It a Boy or Girl Bee?
How can you tell the difference between a female (worker) and a male (drone) honey bee? There are several things you want to check out when you look for female and male bees.
- First look at the eyes. Drones have huge eyes that touch at the top of the head. Female worker bees have much smaller eyes that are well separated on the sides of their heads. The male’s eyes are so much larger because they need to find a potential queen in flight.
- Second, males are slightly larger than a female worker bee.
- Third, look very closely at the segmented portion of the bee’s antennae. The antennae of bees break into two long portions, kind of like our arms. The sections are the scape and the flagellum. The scape is the un-segmented appendage attached to the bee’s head. The scape acts like our upper arm. It has a large degree of rotation and connects the appendage to the rest of the body. The flagellum is the segmented appendage, furthest from the bees head, connected to the scape by the pedicel. The pedicel acts like an elbow joint between the scape and flagellum. Finally, you can examine the number of segments on the flagellum to tell if a bee is male or female. Females have 10 segments on their flagellum and males have 11 segments.
- You will also notice that male bees do not have stingers. This is because the stinger of social insects is a modified ovipositor, which is what female insects use to lay eggs. Since males cannot produce and lay eggs, they also do not have a stinger. Drones only have one real job in the colony and that is to mate with the queen bee.
Bee Identification Challenge
There are a lot of insects that like to pretend to be a bee. Can you identify the honey bee in this group? Are any of them bees of any type? Click on the images that you think are bees to find out if your are correct.