The morphology of the honey bee (Apis mellifera L.) venom gland and reservoir



Hymenopteran venom glands are epidermal glands that have evolved from female accessory reproductive glands. In the honey bee, Apis mellifera L., the venom gland shows many of the fine structural features of primitive glands. A honey bee venom gland is a simple, long, thin, distally bifurcated structure, opening into an ovoid reservoir. Along most of the length of the gland are similar secretory units that have four major components (secretory cells, duct cells, ducts, and end apparatuses), except in the part of the gland proximal to the venom reservoir, where the secretory units resemble those around the venom reservoir. In the latter secretory units a funnel structure occurs between the duct (which is shorter than that of the secretory units of the gland) and the end apparatus. This funnel may be important in protecting the secretory cells around the reservoir from the cytolytic activity of the complex chemical mixture constituting the venom.