The pretarsus of the honeybee

Michel Asperges, Jan D'Haen, Ivo Lambrichts, Frank Van Belleghem


Although the honeybee (Apis mellifera L.) is a well-studied species, the functional morphology of its pretarsal structure is still not fully understood. We conducted an in-depth scanning electron microscopic study on these complex structures to contribute to the comprehension of the pretarsal structure-function relationships. As a result, this study has provided valuable information on the ultrastructure of the pretarsus, and in particular on the spines of the unguitractor surface and the small spines and scalloped surface of the claws with longitudinal grooves. Special attention was given to the adhesive contact zone of the arolium with its highly specialized fibrillary cuticle texture. Remarkably, several of the observed pretarsal structures, such as the pyramidal structures on the unguitractor and the thin hairs on both the grooved claws, and the hairs of the manubrium have not been previously described. All observed structures in this study were characterized with respect to their possible physiological and mechanical roles.


honeybee; pretarsus; arolium; arcus; manubrium; planta; unguitractor

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The Royal Belgian Society of Zoology acknowledges the Universitarian Foundation of Belgium and the National Fund of Scientific Research for their financial support in publishing the Belgian Journal of Zoology.