Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Parts of the Bee: The Tongue (Proboscis)

This closeup photo shows a worker bee. She's quite happy to be sitting on my metal hive tool.

Do you know why? Because there's honey on it. She has her tongue out and she's licking it off.

The bee doesn't have lips like you and I. Instead she has mandibles. They're like to hinged gates that open and close at the middle. The bee uses her mandibles when she needs to chew something such as beeswax when making honeycombs. She'll also use her mandibles the same as we use our hands. She'll pick something a piece of garbage that she'll then carry out of the hive to throw away.

Her tongue, called a proboscis is long and pointy--so is yours if you stick it out as far as you can--her tongue is soft like yours too.

Bees need long tongues so that they can reach into flowers to where the nectar is.

The bees' tongue works like a straw. The bee unrolls her tongue and dips it into a flower. Then she sucks up the nectar like you would drink from a straw.

Bees will also use their tongues like a cat to lick their fur to keep themselves clean. They'll also lick and clean each other and their mother the queen.

Their tongues are also used like brooms to lick the inside of their hive to keep it clean. At least we don't have to lick our bodies to keep them clean.

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