Do Bees Have Knees?
The short answer is yes, they do have knees. The structure and function of their legs and knees require a much more complex answer, though.
Bees have segmented legs that are joined together by different joints. The biggest of these joints is the most comparable to a human knee. Technically speaking, this is considered the bee’s knees.
In Comparison to a Human Knee
Our understanding or definition of what a knee is is based on the human knee. The human knee is the major joint in the middle section of the leg. The knee is the joint that joins together the femur and tibia bone. It helps us bend our legs and move naturally.
Interestingly enough, dictionaries define a knee as the joint between the femur and tibia of an insect. Bees do have leg segments called the femur and tibia. This confirms that, at least technically, bees do have knees.
Bees have knees that are similar to that of a human’s in both structure and functionality.
A bee does have leg segments called the femur and tibia, as humans do. The joint that connects them is the one that most resembles a human’s knee, even in terms of its location on the leg.
The Anatomy of a Bee’s Legs
Bees, like all other insects, have six sections to their legs: the coxa, femur, metatarsus, tarsus, tibia and trochanter. The joint most like a knee is located between the femur and tibia. This is known as the femoro-tibial joint and bends quite like a human knee. It’s the largest connector and what allows the lower leg and foot area to move.
Bees have three pairs of segmented legs. They’re attached to the thorax with three legs on each side. They have a front, middle and rear set. Given the segmentation, the leg of a bee is much more complex than that of a human.
However, unlike humans, bees’ knees don’t have kneecaps. Keep in mind, lots of animals don’t have kneecaps and their legs joints are still referred to as knees.
Bees’ Legs Special Functions
Each set of legs serves a different function and has specialized areas that assist in the pollen or nectar-collecting process. For example, the forelegs have antennae cleaners, and the hind legs feature pollen baskets, known as corbiculae.
In aiding in the pollen collection, bees have hairs on their knees that pick up pollen buildup. Many bee species have combs on the middle legs, as well. These are used to scrape pollen onto the hind legs.
Although the knee itself doesn’t play a unique role, it does contribute to the overall harvesting process. Aside from the collecting process, honeybee legs can be used as a mechanism to move or push the bees. This is usually for when the colony needs to remove dead or undesirable bees from the beehive.
In oil-collecting bees, they use long hairs on their front and middle legs to extract the nectar or floral oil from flowers. They then store the oil in the tufts of hair located on the hind legs and return to the hive.
Although the knee itself doesn’t play a unique role, it does contribute to the overall harvesting process.
Why the “Bee’s Knees” Term?
Does the phrase “bee’s knees” actually have any relation to bees? Well, we can’t be sure. The term first came into use in the 1920s in the United States and was popular for a brief period. Some speculate that the vibrant pollen balls hanging on the lower section of worker bees were the reason for the term. Nobody really knows the origin of the term or its relation to bees’ actual knees.
Bees are anthropods, meaning their bodies are segmented and their legs are jointed. Bees have knees that function quite similarly to those of humans, however they’re much more complex and have specialized functions.
The knees themselves don’t serve a unique purpose, but they still play a role in the overall harvesting process for the colony. Their most knee-like joint is the one located between the femur and tibia bone.