Honey Bee Legs

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You may not think of a bee as one that does a lot of walking, but the legs of bees are used to accomplish many necessary tasks. It is not only a question of how many legs do bees have that is intriguing-but the way they are made. Let’s take a closer look at these jointed structures and learn about the role they play in bee life.

Worker honey bee with 3 pairs of extended legs.

Beyond basic honey bee anatomy (parts of bees), they have specialized features that help them do special jobs. Wings to fly, stingers for defense and legs… well bee legs do a lot.

Leg Segments of Honey Bees

Among the many different species of bees, the size and shape of legs varies greatly. Like all insects, honey bees have six legs. Three pairs of legs that connect to each side of the midsection or thorax of the body.

Bee legs are segmented or jointed. These joints (including bee’s knees) allow a wide range of movement.

However, the joints between the leg sections of a bee are nothing like that of humans or large animals.

Leg movement is limited in bees sticking mostly to and up and down or out and back motion. But, due to the number of segments-mobility is increased. 

For the average hobby beekeeper, remembering the names of the leg segments is likely not that important. However, for those of you interested in knowing more – it is quite a fascinating topic.

6 Principal Segments

  • Coxa
  • Trochanter
  • Femur
  • Tibia
  • Tarsus
  • Pretarsus
Close up of worker bee with segmented legs extended.

Special Features

Claw Feet

The pretarus is the foot section of a bee’s leg and it is one of the most interesting features that we can easily see. It has claws on the end. 

Claws help the bee hold onto rough surfaces. The foot also has structures called arolium that work as suction pads on smooth surfaces.

Antenna Cleaners

All types of bees in the hive have antenna cleaners. These notches are located on the front leg of bees and necessary for good flight.

They are used to clean, pollen, dust and debris from the important bee antenna.

Worker honey bee and bumble bee with pollen baskets on hind legs.

Pollen Basket or Corbicula

Though some bee characteristics are shared – that does not mean that the legs of every bee is exactly the same.

Worker bees have some special structures that are not found on the legs of the queen bee or drones (male bees).

These non-reproductive females do all of the tasks required by the colony. So, they have several special leg parts to help them in.

The corbicula (often called “pollen basket”) is located on the back or hind legs. Together with the rake or pollen brush and pollen press, legs helps bees gather pollen grains and transport them to the hive. 

Once back at the hive, the bee uses her legs to help remove pollen pellets from the legs. The pellets made up of pollen grains and bee saliva are converted into bee bread.

Another resource collected by bees is propolis. This is sometimes called “bee glue” and is collected in the same way. Bees use their mouth parts and legs to pack it on the corbicula.

Honey bees inside hive building wax cells.

How Bees Use Their Legs

Legs allow the bee to move from one spot inside the hive to another. They are also used to clean the eyes of honey bees that help them to navigate when flying.

You might see a forager bee cleaning herself with her front legs at the hive entrance just before taking off. But, the legs of bees are used for more than just cleaning the body.

Making Wax Comb

Sheets of wax honeycomb make up the interior of a honey bee hive. Beeswax is made by bees – adult workers have special wax glands located on their abdomen.

The legs are used to transfer small pieces of wax to their mandibles (jaws-or bee teeth). The wax is chewed and molded into the thousands of individual hexagon shaped wax cells that make up the comb.

Workers often hang in chains using their legs near wax building sites. This activity is called “festooning bees“. Researchers are not sure why they do this. But, it may have something to do with construction of comb.

We do know that those little feet cause white beeswax comb to grow dark over time. With thousands of little feet tracking all over – it is not surprising to see honeycomb become darker over time.

Beekeepers periodically replace old dark comb to keep the inside of the hive healthier.

Taste Receptors

Bees can taste with their feet? Yes, they can to a degree. Honey bees have taste receptors located within sensilla (hair like structures) of their front feet.

This is only one way they experience taste but it gives them the ability to quickly discern if a flower have tasty nectar. No use is wasting time on bad tasting nectar, right?

Legs also aid in bee pollination efforts as they move flower parts to allow the proboscis to reach the food reward inside.


When bees walk across a surface, they leave hydrocarbon footprints. Some researchers feel these footprints give olfactory clues. This is similar to the bee pheromones that members of the colony use to communicate.

If you are a beekeeper, you have probably seen a worker bee place her legs on the body of another bee. She makes a pumping motion – it looks like she is doing push ups. We may not always know why they do these things – but the bees are communicating in some way.


How many legs does a bee have?

Bees have 6 legs – 3 pair attached to the mid section or thorax of the body.

Where are the bumps on bee legs?

The bumps on bee legs are pollen baskets. Pollen baskets are stiff hairs located on the back legs of worker honey bees. They are used to gather pollen and propolis.

Do bees use their legs to walk?

Yes, bees need to move from one place to another inside the hive and sometimes outside. The can use their legs to walk short distances.

Final Thoughts

The specialized design of honey bee legs helps them carry on their daily activity. But, it is clear that their legs are about much more than just movement.

Legs help the bees walk, run, groom themselves, communicate, fly and form the comb of their hive. Yes, they have a lot of them but they make use of everything nature has given them. Now, how many things can you do with your legs? 😉

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