Facinating Bee Tongues

Excerpted from: Our Native Bees, By Paige Embry

Bee Mouth Parts Graphic

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 folded up.

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 whey 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 my lap rather than suck up nectar.

Short Tongue Bee

Andrena nivalis with a short tongue.

Long Tongue Bee

Anthophora affabilis with a long tongue.

Further Information:   

Wisconsin Bee Identification Guide
Spring Wild Bees of Wisconsin
Bumble Bees of Wisconsin
Wild Native Bee Nest Boxes

Benefits of Pollen to Bees

The bee's basic nutritional requirements are similar to those of humans; they need proteins, carbohydrates, minerals, fats/lipids, vitamins, and water. Learn More!

Honey Bee Anatomy Quiz

Take this quick quiz and see how much you know about bees—our favorite essential pollinators working around the world. This quiz is intended for fun, in a random-facts-can-be-cool kind of way.

Spring Pollinator Plants

Spring begins andhungry pollinators are on the wing, looking for food. From the moment emerge in spring to the time that they hibernate or migrate in the fall, pollinators need to eat.