Female Reproductive System by Sarah Gabric

Reproductive System



Workers bees’ reproductive organs are, for the most part, latent. Though workers possess the same anatomical organs as their mothers, as a result of inhibiting factors (primarily the quality of food they were fed as larvae), they usually remain undeveloped. Under certain conditions (for instance when a colony becomes hopelessly queenless) these female bees’ reproductive organs can mature and function. Having never been mated however, all the eggs they produce will be drones.


The queen honey bee’s distinguishing physical feature is her long, turgid abdomen wherein her prodigious reproductive organs dwell. These reproductive organs and the journey of eggs through them start at the ovaries (which look like a pair of bumpy gourds). The eggs begin as tiny cells and travel through egg tubules called ovarioles (of which there are about 160) toward the oviduct. The eggs grow, increasing in size as they descend and move through a lateral oviduct into the common oviduct where they wait to either pass on and out through the vagina unaltered (to become male) or are bathed in spermatozoa (to become female).


Spermatozoa collected on the queen’s mating flights is stored is a bulbous organ located in her abdomen called the spermatheca.  In service of keeping the spermatozoa healthy (as she will rely on this cache to fertilize her progeny for the entirety of her life) two spermathecal glands produce nutritious secretions while an intricate network of trachea supplies fresh oxygen to the little swimmers.


Both fertilized and unfertilized eggs pass through a valve fold into the vagina and out through the bursa copulatrix, an organ which also serves to capture spermatozoa and mucus during mating.