The Bee’s Flawless Anatomy
A report in Byte, one of the world’s most popular computer magazines, contained very interesting information about honeybees.
The magazine compared bees’ brains to computers! According to the results of a study reported in the magazine, the bee brain works at a rate superior to the most highly advanced computer. Today’s most advanced computers can compute 16 billion computations a second. The figure for the bee brain is 625 times greater than this: 10 trillion.
What’s more, the bee brain also consumes less energy than a computer in performing all these computations. The energy consumed by 10 million bees is the same as that used by a single 100 watt bulb. (The bee brain consumes less than 10 microwatts of energy.)111
As can be seen from this comparison, every organ in the bee’s body, including its brain, has been specially created in order to perform the functions it is engaged in at a given time. Its exoskeleton, for instance, is exceedingly strong, and its respiratory system allows more oxygen to reach the soft tissues by making better use of the air. Its muscular structure possesses different characteristics in different sections of its body, depending upon requirements for movement. The wing muscles, for instance, lack the outer membrane found in the other muscles, in order to admit more oxygen. Similarly, its smell and taste systems are perfectly suited to such tasks as gathering nectar.
As we saw in the preceding chapters, all the bee’s flawless structures formed inside a tiny cell in which it completed its development stages. The physical structure of bees is just one of the proofs of God’s incomparable creative artistry and infinite knowledge. God reveals that His knowledge pervades everything:
Your deity is God alone, there is no deity but Him. He encompasses all things in His knowledge. (Surah Ta Ha: 98)
This chapter will provide brief information about bees’ bodily systems.
The Bee’s Exoskeleton
Like other insects, bees have an external skeleton consisting of a hard jointed shell, formed of a layer known as chitin. These layers have been created to be hard enough to form the external skeleton structure.112
Other substances in the skeleton are water, protein and fat.
The Respiratory System
The bee’s respiratory system, known as the “tracheal system,” begins with external respiratory openings, or namely spiracles, and is then divided up into branches in such a way as to reach every organ in the bee’s body. The trachea arms widen to form air sacs that are large albeit few in number, and used to store air. The small branches and tubes emerging from the sacs extend as far as the tissues. Bees can accelerate the passage of air into their bodies by contracting these sacs, which speeds up the oxygenation of the tissues.113
Each muscle in the bee’s body consists of different numbers of muscle fibers, consisting of longitudinal cells. To fulfill its functions, every living cell requires energy. The mitochondria provide this for the cells. In order for bees to be able to move, their muscles need to have the property of contraction—a need met by structures known as myofibrils, found in large quantities in the fluid of the muscle fibers and which do indeed possess contractibility.
Myofibrils consist of proteins and contain strings of large, oval mitochondria. The cytoplasm of the muscle fibers fills with glycogen, that the bee uses as a store of energy.
The myofibrils in bees’ fast-moving wings are 2.5 to 3 µm (micrometer) across.114 These minute structures allow the honeybee to beat its wings 250 times a second.115 When laden with pollen, a bee can fly at 9 kilometers (5.6 miles) an hour, and 13 kilometers (8 miles) per hour when not laden.
The structure of the muscles allowing the bee to move changes according to their area of use. For example, those muscles like the wing muscles that must move very quickly lack the external membrane of the other muscles, in order to admit the requisite oxygen. In addition, the bee’s entire body is equipped with tracheal tubes to carry the oxygen that its body needs.116
The Wing Structure
Bees may appear to have two wings when they fly, but they actually have four, which they move as if they were only two in number. This use is better suited to the laws of aerodynamics. If these wings acted separately, they would be useless for flight. Yet thanks to the special structure of their wings, bees can move faster than a great many other flying creatures.
On the bee’s hindwings are a large number of hook-like projections. These attach to the folded rear edge of the forewings, allowing the two wings to act as one. When at rest, these tiny bonds are released, and the fore- and hindwings are left independent again.117
The Olfactory System
Bees’ scent receptors are on their antennae. (Contrary to human beings, insects’ scent-receptors lie not in their respiratory openings.) Yet these sensory nerves do not make direct contact with the substance being smelled since insects’ bodies, including their antennae, are covered in a shell of chitin.
Under a microscope, the bee’s antennae can be seen to have a large number of pore plates. The olfactory nerves from its brain terminate at these plates, which are covered in a special membrane that helps protect the nerve endings. Yet these are still able to detect scents. The area between the pore plates is covered with sensory tiny hairs.118
The Taste System
Bees’ taste organs, in their mouth cavities and proboscis, enable them to distinguish sweet, sour, bitter and salty tastes.
Of these, sweetness is the most important for honey-gathering bees. In particular, bees are well able to distinguish the kinds of sugar necessary for themselves. We can make a comparison here between bees and human beings. Humans may not be able to differentiate very well between sugar and artificial sweeteners with no nutritional value. But it is impossible to deceive bees with artificial sweeteners: A bee can immediately tell the difference between these and real sugar, and will refuse to take water containing the former. Because bees use the nectar they collect to make honey, any error in recognizing sugar will lead to poor honey or none at all.119
111- BYTE Dergisi, Haziran 1995
112- The Guinness Encyclopedia; s.18
113- The Guinness Encyclopedia; s.91-94
114- Prof.Dr.Ali Demirsoy, Yaşamın Temel Kuralları, Omurgasızlar/Böcekler, Entomoloji Cilt II/Kısım -II, Ankara; s.96-99
115- Joan Embery, Collection of Amazing Animal Facts, Delacorte Press, New York 1983, s.23
116- Prof. Dr.Ali Demirsoy, Yaşamın Temel Kuralları, Omurgasızlar/Böcekler Entomoloji Cilt II/Kısım-II, Ankara; s.98
117- Prof. Dr.Ali Demirsoy, Yaşamın Temel Kuralları, Omurgasızlar/Böcekler, Entomoloji Cilt II/Kısım -II, Ankara; s.65
118- Prof. Karl von Frisch, Arıların Hayatı, s.117-119
119- Prof. Karl von Frisch, Arıların Hayatı, s.124