No, bees do not have lungs. Instead, they breathe through a tracheal respiratory system. In this system, tracheal sacs pump air in and out of the bee’s body. Gas transfer also occurs through a network of tubes called the trachea. This trachea branch throughout their bodies and deliver oxygen directly to the cells.
In this article, we’ll learn more about the bee’s respiratory system as we discuss the following:
- How bees breathe
- Parts of the bee respiratory system
- Advantages and disadvantages of the bee respiratory system
- Can bees suffocate?
How Do Bees Breathe?
Bees breathe through the tracheal respiratory system. Again, this is a system wherein oxygen moves through a network of tubes called the trachea. Through these tubes, oxygen is directly delivered to the cells in the body. It bypasses the need for a circulatory system for gas transport.
The bee respiratory system consists of the following important parts:
The process begins with gas intake. Bees breathe in oxygen through spiracles. These spiracles are small openings located on the surface of a bee’s body that allow air to enter and exit. They are the entry points for oxygen and the exit points for carbon dioxide.
Bees have a total of 20 spiracles strategically lined up throughout their bodies. 7 pairs are on the abdomen and 3 on the upper body or thorax. These spiracles are connected to valves that allow them to open and close as needed.
Each of these spiracles is connected to the trachea.
The trachea is a vital component of the bee’s respiratory system. It’s a network of air passages that distribute oxygen directly to their tissues.
The trachea branches out and extends throughout the bee’s body. This allows oxygen to reach even the smallest cells.
Along the trachea are thin-walled tracheal sacs. These tracheal or air sacs serve as pumps that ventilate the trachea. Bees contract their abdomen to force out carbon dioxide. They then relax to allow fresh air to enter the body. [1, 2]
The tracheal sacs enable the distribution of oxygen to the head, the thorax, and the abdomen. They ensure that fresh, oxygen-rich air reaches the tracheoles.
At the end of the trachea are special cells called tracheoles. These tracheoles are the gas exchange surface or where gas exchange happens. They have direct contact with cellular tissues. The oxygen in these tracheoles diffuses into the cellular tissue.
On the flip side, carbon dioxide diffuses from the tissues and begins its trip out of the body from the tracheoles. It then moves through the trachea and out of the spiracles.
Advantages of the Bee Respiratory System
The tracheal system allows for efficient oxygen exchange. The trachea delivers oxygen directly to the cells. This bypasses the need for a complex circulatory system for gas transport. Meaning, that bees don’t need blood to breathe.
Additionally, bees don’t rely on lungs. They don’t have to expend much energy on breathing in and out. Their breathing is mostly passive and does not require much muscular effort.
Lastly, the bee’s respiratory system is adapted to minimize water loss. Bees can close their spiracles to prevent the loss of water. This is particularly important for bees that live in dry environments.
Disadvantages of the Bee Respiratory System
Of course, the bee respiratory system also has disadvantages. One of which is that it’s vulnerable to respiratory diseases. Bee spiracles are big enough to allow parasites like tracheal mites to enter.
These mites lay eggs in the trachea. Once these eggs hatch, the developing mites pierce the tracheal wall to feed on hemolymph. When they grow, they mate with their siblings and clog the trachea with offspring and debris. This damages the trachea and causes a loss in elasticity. 
Eventually, the infected bee can no longer breathe properly to fly or perform normal tasks.
Can Bees Suffocate?
Yes, bees can suffocate. Pesticides and other chemicals can block off their spiracles and prevent airflow. When this happens, they’ll fail to obtain oxygen and eventually suffocate to death.
Bees may also suffocate when trapped in areas with low oxygen levels.
How Long Can Bees Survive Without Oxygen?
Bees can survive hours or days without breathing in oxygen. It depends on whether or not they were able to store oxygen beforehand.
Bees, like other insects, can close their spiracles and live off stored oxygen. They do so by curbing their activity to lower their metabolic rate.
Do Other Insects Have Lungs? Do Bees Breathe Like Other Insects?
Other insects don’t have lungs. They have tracheal respiratory systems just like bees. However, that’s not to say that all insects breathe exactly like bees. Some insects don’t rely on tracheal sacs. Flies, for example, simply breathe through the passive diffusion of gas.
Related: How do ants breathe?
Can Bees Breathe Underwater?
No, bees can’t breathe underwater. Water blocks their spiracles and prevents airflow. When submerged, bees close their spiracles and try to live off stored oxygen.
Do Bees Control Their Breathing?
Yes, bees do control their breathing. Bees can pump air through the tracheal sacs and increase oxygen intake. They do so to keep up with the demands of heightened activity like flight.
Do Bees Have Blood?
Yes, bees have blood called hemolymph. Hemolymph is a fluid that functions similarly to blood in other animals. It transports, nutrients, and hormones throughout the bee’s body. It also plays a role in the immune system.
Unlike our blood, however, hemolymph does not contain oxygen-carrying molecules like hemoglobin.
Summary: Do Bees Have Lungs?
To summarize, no bees don’t have lungs. Bees have a tracheal respiratory system like other insects. This system does not feature lungs but instead makes use of a network of tubes called trachea. Along these trachea are important parts including the spiracles, tracheal sacs, and tracheoles.