Honeybee Feeding

honeybee lapping nectar from flower

Honeybees feed solely on liquids - either flower nectar or honey stored within their hives. They feed using their proboscis, a flexible, temporary structure assembled by bringing together the maxillae and labia to form a tube through which the liquid is drawn up by the pumping action of the tongue. When the proboscis is not in use, the honeybee folds it back beneath the head. The mandibles are used for grasping solid objects, 'chewing' pollen and wood (when constructing or modifying the hive) and to work wax when building the honeycomb.

Honeybees also possess taste receptors which enable them to distinguish the same tastes as humans i.e. salty, sour, sweet and bitter. However, compared to humans, honeybees have a lower taste threshold for salty and sour and a higher taste threshold for bitter and sweet which allows them to detect if nectar is too dilute to be converted into honey.