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How Many Legs Do Bees Have? (What Do They Use Them For)

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Bees have six legs in total, split into 3 pairs: a front pair, middle pair, and hind pair. They use these different pairs for different tasks.

Bees are very unique creatures, both when it comes to their anatomy and behavior.

While it may seem like they just use their legs for walking, this is not true. They use their legs for a multitude of things.

In this article, we’ll dive deeper into how bees use their legs, how they’re structured, and why it’s important.

How Many Legs Do Bees Have?

Bees have six legs that are attached to their thorax. These legs help the bees with many different things including walking, carrying, grooming, and more.

Their six legs are split into three pairs, the front pair, middle pair, and hind pair. Bees use each pair for different tasks.

Each leg has six different parts which are made up of joints and tiny hairs.

1st segmentCoxa
2nd segmentTrochanter
3rd segmentFemur
4th segmentTibia
5th segmentMetatarsus
6th segmentTarsus
Claw on the end of their feetTarsus Claw

Why Do Bees Have Six Legs?

Bees have six legs because they are insects. Insects have three body segments: the head (front part), the thorax (middle part), and the abdomen (hind part). The wings and legs are attached to the thorax.

They’ve evolved like this because bees need their legs to perform a variety of tasks. Each set of legs are equally important. Some tasks only require one set, while others include them all.

bee legs number and position

Bee Leg Anatomy

Bees’ legs are split into six parts: coxa, femur, trochanter, tibia, metatarsus, and tarsus.

On their feet, they also have tarsus claws, which they can use to grip better.

Related: Bee anatomy

Bee Leg Anatomy Chart

Coxa

The first part of the bee leg is the coxa. 

This section has a small plate that covers an opening on its side called the coxal cavity that contains glands that secrete compounds used by workers to communicate. [1]

Femur

The femur is the longest and largest bone in the bee leg. This section also has a small projection near the top called the trochanter protuberance. The trochanter protuberance helps provide attachment points for ligaments to help support the bee’s weight.

Trochanter

The trochanter is a small, triangular bone. This section helps connect the femur to the tibia and provides some muscle attachment points. This segment works almost like a knee

Tibia

The tibia is located below the femur and is often difficult to see on the hind legs because it is covered by the bee’s pollen basket. 

The pollen basket is used to store pollen. [2]

The tibia supports most of a bee’s weight when it lands on a flower to collect pollen or nectar. The tibia also has several small projections called spurs that help keep the bee’s leg locked into place when it stands on flowers.

Metatarsus

The metatarsus is the fifth part of a bee’s leg. It is located between the tibia and tarsus. The metatarsus has a row of hairs that are used to move pollen up into the pollen basket, where the pollen is then compressed.

Tarsus

The last section of the bee’s legs is called the tarsus. It is located where the femur meets the tibia and is made of many segments called tarsomeres.

Tarsus Claw (Tarsal Claws)

The tarsus claw, also known as the bee foot claw, is a small, sharp claw that is found on the end of bees’ legs. This claw is used for gripping and holding objects, as well as for digging and scraping. Bees can also taste with sensilla located on their claws. [3]

What Do Bees Use Their Legs For?

Bees use their legs for a variety of tasks, such as walking, grooming, tasting, grabbing, storing pollen, hearing, and building.

You can read about how this all works here.

Walking

That’s primarily what bees use their legs for – walking. They need to be able to get around in order to collect pollen and nectar, as well as to travel between colonies.

While bees mostly fly to get around, they walk on flowers and in their hive.

queen bee alone

Grooming

Grooming is an important part of a bee’s day-to-day life. They use their legs to groom themselves and each other, removing dirt, pollen, and other debris from their bodies. 

This helps keep them clean and healthy and also prevents the build-up of pests and parasites. [4]

bee workers on beehive

Tasting

Bees can taste using their legs, as these have small sensilla, hair-like structures that contain receptor nerve cells. 

These hairs are found near their claws on their front legs. [5]

Bee pollinates the lavender flowers. Plant decay with insects

Grabbing

Bees use their front legs for grabbing. With the tarsus claws, they can get a hold of brood, pollen, or other things they may need to move around. Bees only use their front legs for this.

giant bee

Storing Pollen (Corbicula)

Bees use their front legs for grabbing. With the tarsus claws, they can get a hold of brood, pollen, or other things they may need to move around. Bees only use their front legs for this.

honey bee full of pollen on body

Hearing

While bees don’t have ears, they can still hear. They use both their antennae, fine hairs, and legs to do so. 

Bees use their legs to sense the direction of sound and orient themselves accordingly.

Bees also use their legs to pick up vibrations in the air, which are then converted into sound. By doing this, bees can hear even the faintest of sounds. They use this for communication, or to avoid incoming predators.

Related: Do bees have ears?

A macro shot of a bumblebee

Building

Bees are very skilled with their legs. They use them for building their nest, as well as the honeycomb. When bees create honeycombs, they secrete beeswax. They then use their front legs to shape the beeswax into hexagonal cells.

These hexagonal honeycomb cells are used to store honey, pollen, and eggs.

working bee

Do All Bees Have Pollen Baskets on Their Legs?

No, not all bees have pollen baskets. Most wild bees lack these but have other methods of picking up pollen. Wild worker bees have evolved specialized leg hairs (scopae) which are long and sticky.

Only worker bees have pollen baskets or other methods of collecting pollen. Drones and queens have no use for these.

Conclusion

In conclusion, bees have six legs that they use for various tasks. Their legs are split into 3 pairs, each of which is used for different tasks such as grabbing, walking, grooming, pollen packing, tasting, hearing, and more.

FAQs

How Many Legs Does a Honey Bee Have?

A honey bee has six legs.

Do All Bees Have 6 Legs?

All bees are insects, hence they have six legs, both workers, queens, and drones of different species.

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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