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Do Bees Have Hearts? (Bee Heart Anatomy)

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Yes, bees do have hearts, but they are different from the ones humans have. Bees are equipped with an open circulatory system. In other words, their heart runs through their entire body. This is called a dorsal vessel.

But, how does an open circulatory system work?

Well, in this article, we’ll explore the anatomy of a bee’s heart. If you’re interested in how these fascinating creatures’ circulatory functions function, keep reading.

Let’s take a closer look.

Bees Have an Open Circulatory System

Do bees have hearts? Yes, they do have hearts of some kind. Despite what some people believe, almost all animals do.

A bee’s heart is not in a single place like ours but is instead what’s called an open circulatory system (rather than the closed one). 

In bees, this circulatory system is like a tube, running through their entire body. Instead of blood vessels carrying blood around, all of the blood is handled and dispersed by the tube.

A bee heart also doesn’t carry around blood like ours, but hemolymph instead.

carpenter bee

Open Circulatory System vs. Closed

The circulatory system is defined as the system that contains the heart and blood and is what transports blood through the body. [1] 

There are two types: open and closed.

The difference is, that in the closed system, blood is at all times enclosed in vessels, while it’s not in the open system.

Open Circulatory System

Open circulatory system

The open circulatory system pumps blood into a heart, which pumps it throughout an organism’s entire body cavity, returning to another heart at the end of its journey. 

The primary example of this system is the Earth’s first living organisms. They do not have the heart to pump blood through their bodies but rely on simple diffusion, which uses organs to move fluid around various parts of the animal.

Closed circulatory system

The closed circulatory system has a heart that pumps blood throughout an organism’s body through blood vessels. The blood will be pumped out one way. It then recirculates after it reaches the end and returns to a heart.

Humans have a closed system, where our heart pumps oxygenated blood out from the heart to be absorbed by our muscles.

What Does a Bee Heart Look Like?

A bee’s heart, or heart, looks like a long tube, running from its head to its abdomen. These are made up of muscle, and pump rhythmically to create a circulation of hemolymph from the head to the abdomen and back again. [2]

Hemolymph is the bee’s blood – except it isn’t blood. Hemolymph doesn’t contain hemoglobin or red blood cells.

Hemolymph isn’t contained in vessels but instead flows freely in the extracellular space.

You can imagine a bee’s body as a tube full of liquid that continuously flows from head to tail. All the fluid carries nutrients and oxygen to different organs and tissues throughout the bee’s body.

bee heart

How Many Hearts Do Bees Have?

Bees technically have one “heart”, which isn’t a heart but instead a tube, that consists of multiple hearts. 

Let’s explain:

The bee heart is a long tube, which doesn’t fit our usual image of a heart. This tube consists of multiple muscle groups (multiple smaller hearts), that all pump in synchronization.

To summarize: bees have one long heart.

How Do Bee Hearts Work?

Bee’s hearts work by creating circulation within the body. This circulation makes sure that hemolymph travels back and forth from the abdomen to the head.

If this circulation stopped, the bee would die. Think of it as our heart pumping, but instead it’s a long tube.

bee on a sunflower

How Fast Does a Bees Heart Beat?

Bees have a high-speed heart rate. Their hearts beat about 1320 times every minute which is the same as bumblebees and honey bees. 

Do Bees Have Heart Attacks?

No, bees can’t have heart attacks. Insects such as wasps, cockroaches, and ants don’t have hearts in the same way we do. 

They also can’t suffer coronary heart disease or hypertension because they lack blood vessels and the complex arteries and veins that take blood around their bodies.

How Are Bees Hearts Different From Humans

There are many fundamental differences between humans and bees, one of them being the way our hearts work.

blood vessels

The system structure

As mentioned earlier, humans (and most other vertebrates), have what’s called a closed circulatory system. This is where our blood is always enclosed and transported through blood vessels.

Bees (and most other invertebrates) have a closed system, where hemolymph flows freely and is transported by circulation. Compared to those of humans, bee hearts are relatively simple in terms of structure and function.

The internal structure

A bee’s heart is a long tube extending from its head to the tip of its abdomen. Bees have only two chambers in their heart: 

  • An atrium
  • A ventricle

Human hearts have four chambers. 

Additionally, bee hearts do not contain valves within their cavities (humans’ hearts include one atrioventricular valve and two semilunar valves).

human heart

Heart rate

Bees also have a relatively high metabolism, which means that their hearts must beat at a high rate to provide them with enough oxygen for physical activity. 

So, to keep up the necessary pumping of blood, bees have evolved small muscles attached to their wings that can contract to cause the bee’s heart to beat faster. 

A bee’s heart rate can reach as high as 12 beats per second, although it is typically around 8-10 beats per second. Most humans have a resting heart rate between 50-60, ten times less than that of bees.

Smaller animals will typically have faster heart rates. Elephants have a heart rate of 30 beats per minute – that’s half of the human heart rate.

Honey Bee on a Flower

Do Bees Have Blood?

No, bees do not have blood. Instead, they have something called hemolymph, a mix of blood and lymphatic fluid. Hemolymph is blood without hemoglobin and red blood cells.

Hemolymph flows freely within the body of bees. The dorsal vessel creates circulation by pumping this around, making sure the body gets the nutrients it needs from the hemolymph.

What Is Hemolymph?

Hemolymph is the colorless fluid that serves as “blood” in the circulatory system of arthropods, mollusks, and many other invertebrates. 

It’s composed of plasma and hemocytes (a type of white blood cell). 

Hemocytes help fight infections and repair wounds by bringing nutrients to affected areas and removing harmful bacteria and cellular waste products. 

As cells, their shape varies depending on where they’re found in the body. For example, some are disk-shaped, while others are needle-like.

The United States National Library of Medicine’s MedlinePlus notes that hemolymph serves three essential functions: 

  • It transports hormones, nutrients, and wastes.
  • It helps fight infections by sending out antibodies.
  • enables arthropods to sense their surroundings through chemoreceptors (chemosensors).

Conclusion

Bees have hearts, but instead of a centralized organ that pumps out blood to different parts of the body, it’s a long tube that stretches from the head to the abdomen. This is called a dorsal vessel, or a dorsal aorta.

Bees don’t use hemoglobin as humans do. Instead, they rely on hemolymph for oxygen transport throughout their bodies.

This is called an open circulatory system, whereas humans have a closed system. The main difference is, that our blood is enclosed in blood vessels at all times, where the hemolymph in an open system flows throughout the body.

Related: Bee Anatomy

Frequently Asked Questions

How Many Hearts Does a Honey Bee Have?

So how many hearts does a honey bee have? Bees have one heart, that’s not really a heart. Instead, it’s a dorsal vessel, a long tube that runs through its body.

How Many Hearts Does a Bumblebee Have?

Bees have one dorsal vessel. This is the invertebrae version of a heart. This dorsal vessel is made up of many smaller muscles, so in a way, you could argue that bees have multiple hearts. Technically speaking, they don’t have hearts though.

Do Bees Have 12 Hearts?

No, bees do not have twelve hearts. They only have one heart that pumps blood through the rest of their body. That is because bees are different from humans. After all, they have an open circulatory system instead of having a closed circulatory system as we do.

About Teodoro Pittman

Teodoro is a nature and animal lover. He specifically focuses on insects, such as ants, bees, and the like. In his free time, he takes care of his own ant farm, where he analyzes their behavior. Teodoro has spent the last 7 years studying the intricate behavior of these small creatures.

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