Other Invertebrates
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Torphins invertebrates
Windowbox Gardens

The bumblebee antenna

Sex determination
Temperature reg.
Tongue & mouth
bumble bee antenna through microscope
Bumblebee antenna.
bumble bee antenna through microscope
Last segment of bumblebee antenna.
bumble bee antanna pore plates through microscope
Pore plates on last segment of bumblebee antenna.

Bumblebee antenna

On the left and below you can see an SEM image of the entire antenna of a worker, with the long scape, roundish pedicel followed by 10 smaller segments that make up the flagellum, the worker and queen antennae are the same, but the male has 11 segments in his flagellum.

Above centre is a more magnified image of the end segments, and above right, showing just the final segment you can just make out the pore plates. The pore plates detect smells and send signals to the brain. The bees can detect the direction of the smell as they have two antennae.

We have binocular vision to help us tell how far away an object is. With two antennae the bumblebee can monitor the concentration of the odour molecules and decide whether to move towards or away from the source.
Click here for full size image of pore plates.

Taste and smell are conveyed to the bee through the tiny hairs on the antenna and mouthparts. The scent molecules pass through the tiny pores on the pore plates (see above), then stick to receptor sites on the sensory cells. The pore plates are also involved in the sense of smell.

Bumblebee head

On the left and below you can see the various parts of the bumblebee head. More information on the compound eye and ocelli (see below) can be found on the eye page. The mandibles are closed in this image, so the tongue cannot be seen. It is held within a horny sheath and folded lengthwise underneath the body.

Bombus pascuorum head showing ocelli

bumblebee head annotated
Bombus hortorum worker bumblebee head  

Bumblebee Antenna cleaner

In common with many other insects, e.g. beetles and ants, the bumblebee has a pair of antennae cleaners on each front leg. The antenna is inserted into the notch then the metatarsus is bent enclosing the antenna. The antenna is then pulled through the notch and any debris or pollen is caught on the comb fringing the notch.

It is the great good fortune of humans that, by an accident of evolution, we and bees find the same scents attractive.

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bumble bee antenna cleaner, front leg
Antenna cleaner.