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Bumble Bee Mouth Parts

Most bumble bees, except for the young queens, have only a few weeks left to live, but until a killing frost arrives, they will be gathering pollen and nectar for themselves and their colony.  The various mouth parts that enable them to collect food are hidden behind the large lip that you see when you face a bumble bee head on. 

Behind this lip, there are multiple structures that are adapted to grasp, shape and collect food. These include jaws, or mandibles, which clasp pollen and wax used to form cells for eggs. Under the mandibles are two long sheaths that also grasp and shape food called maxillae.  Two labial palps located under the maxillae serve as taste sensors. Both of these structures, the maxillae and palps, form a horny sheath which protects the bee’s tongue.

Nectar is accessed with a proboscis which is basically a tube that is protected by the mandible, maxillae and labial palps.  A tongue-like structure called a glossa protrudes from the proboscis. Its hairy tip is well suited for collecting nectar.

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5 responses

  1. Alice

    What a gorgeous close up! Must have felt safe on someone’s finger! Their eyes are fascinating. They are so beautiful…first sightings in the Spring, here, are usually on Andromeda.

    October 24, 2022 at 9:35 am

  2. Can you demonstrate (at some point in time) the difference between a Bumble Bee’s face and a Carpenter Bee’s Face! Thanks! Great Shot for sure! 🙂 ❤

    October 24, 2022 at 9:49 am

  3. Beautiful portrait, Mary. And the info on the bee’s mouthparts is, well, the bee’s knees!

    October 24, 2022 at 11:12 am

  4. Bill on the Hill

    Great detail in this shot Mary, very well done… I love this kind of photography, up close & personal. I don’t own any macro lenses, however my EF 70-200 mm f/2.8, non stabilization lens set just beyond it’s minimum focus length gives me outstanding detail when using my tripod & a remote switch, done…
    kathiefive above wins the comments award btw, lol!
    Bill… :~)

    October 25, 2022 at 8:11 am

  5. Gwen Blodgett

    Thanks for all the great things you send us.  I’m hoping, however, to see something on the “Stink Bugs” that are getting into my house alot lately….???? Gwen Blodgett

    October 27, 2022 at 5:17 pm

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