July 9, 2016

Honey Bee Exoskeleton

Bees like all insects and unlike vertebrates,  have their skeletons on the outside, exoskeletons , with the muscles attached to the inside. The exoskeleton is made up of two parts, the epidermis and the cuticle.

The epidermis is a single layer of living cells forming a complete sheet over the whole body and covering the internal organs. The epidermis also secretes a non living material which forms the hard, resistant outer covering of the insect which is the cuticle.

Bee’s Cuticle

The structure of the cuticle is built from chitin, into which a protein called sclerotin is injected. The cuticle is covered with a thin coating called the epicuticle, to make it waterproof and scratch resistant.

This dead layer or cuticle means that if an insect wishes to grow the old cuticle needs to be shed or moulted and a new one produced. This process only occurs in a honey bee during the larval and pupal stages.

More about Honey Bee Anatomy and Physiology