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Q:  Hi, my name is Laura and I have a question that you may think is really dumb. However, I'm being completely serious in asking it. The question is: Do bees pee? If so, how and where? If you could answer these questions, I would greatly appreciate it. Thanks a bunch.

A:  Hi Laura. Actually that's not such a dumb question. Why shouldn't you be interested in how other animals' bodies work?

And, there is a good book that I recommend you look for to find the answer to "silly" and not so silly questions about insects. It's by James K. Wangberg, and it's called "Do Bees Sneeze? And Other Questions Kids Ask About Insects"; Fulcrum Publishing, Golden, Colorado. Your local library should be able to get a copy through interlibrary loan if you don't want to buy a copy for yourself. I'm going to quote Wangberg for the answer to your question, which is their question 27:

"Do insects urinate?

Insects that live on land usually need to save or conserve water in their bodies to prevent themselves from drying out. They cannot afford to lose much water when they eliminate wastes from their bodies and thus do not urinate. They eliminate a waste called uric acid that doesn't contain much water. Insects that live in water do not have a water conservation problem. They are surrounded by water and can afford to pass a lot of water through their systems to prevent their bodies from getting too soggy. They eliminate waste as ammonia flushed out with water.

Insects produce their wastes with organs called Malpighian (mal-pig-he-in) tubules (named after a man named Malpighi). In humans, urine is produced by organs called kidneys. The Malpighian tubules are the insect version of kidneys. Uric acid and ammonia are dumped into the insects' hind gut and mixed with other waste products instead of traveling out the body through a separate tube, as urine does."

For bees, the main waste products besides uric acid are empty pollen grains that the larva passes just before spinning a cocoon. Many of these pollen grains retain their original shape and can be identified to determine what kind of flowers the bees foraged from.  Bees also often pass a droplet of uric acid just after they emerge from their cocoon as adults.  It is whitish and looks like a tiny bird dropping.

Want to know more? Wangberg's book has answers to these questions and more:
Do insects cough?
Do bugs spit?
Can insects have hiccups?
Do insects have blood?
Do insects pass gas?
Do insects have footprints?
Do bugs sweat?
Do insects snore?
Why do bees live in a hive?
What happens to insects in the fog?
Do insects get colds and die?
What is the deadliest insect in the world?

Here's a few more references that may help with ideas for insect, bee, and pollination related science projects.  These are for high school and older researchers.

Howard Ensign Evans, 1984.  Life on a Little-Known Planet.  University of Chicago Press

Vincent G. Dethier, 1962.  To Know A Fly.  Holden Day, San Francisco.

Karl von Frisch. 1967.  The Dance Language and Orientation of Bees.  The Belknap Press of Harvard University Press.

Bernd Heinrich.  1979.  Bumblebee Economics.  Harvard University Press.

Carol Ann Kearns and David William Innouye.  1993.  Techniques for Pollination Biologists.  University Press of Colorado.

Read the story of naturalist Opal Whiteley and her enchanting writings about nature.  This is a beautiful nature websites  full of great photos, and wonderful use of the non-linear web structure. 

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Updated March 26,  2001.
Copyright 2001, Karen Strickler. All rights reserved.