The Weird World Of Bee Tongues
Excerpted from: Our Native Bees, By Paige Embry
To talk of bee tongues is to vastly oversimply the complex apparatus that makes up bee mouthparts.
Bees have a ‘glossa,’ which is the closest mouthpart they have to a true tongue. They also have
‘labial palps’ that run next to the glossa and are used for tasting.
These together with other
mouthparts make up the bee’s ‘proboscis.’ Many of these parts are pointed so that they can be
Some bees are long-tongue bees and others are short-tongue bees, but it has to do with the labial
palps rather than the glossa length. This leads to the confusing truth that some short-tongue bees
have a long glossa and so could be considered long-tongued, short-tongue bees.
The cool thing
about bee mouthparts is that the ones with long tongues fold them away under their body when
they aren’t in use. When needed, they can unfold the pieces and join them together to make a straw
for sucking up nectar. Short-tongue bees don’t make the same kind of straw and may lap rather than
suck up nectar.
Andrena nivalis with a short tongue.
Anthophora affabilis with a long tongue.
Wisconsin Bee Identification Guide
Spring Wild Bees of Wisconsin
Bumble Bees of Wisconsin
Wild Native Bee Nest Boxes
The bee's basic nutritional requirements are similar to those of humans; they need proteins, carbohydrates,
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Spring begins andhungry pollinators are on the wing, looking for food. From
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