, Volume 43, Issue 2, pp 201–211 | Cite as

Ontogeny and morphology of the bulbus, part of the male reproductive organ in Apis mellifera carnica (Hymenoptera, Apidae)

Original article


The bulbus is a part of the unique functional penis (endophallus) in the genus Apis and was studied in Apis mellifera drones. The bulbus consists of a thin cuticular membrane, covered by four different epithelia (dorsal epithelium, anterior epithelium, ventral epithelium I and ventral epithelium II). One day before eclosion, pupae have no sclerotised plates in the bulbus lumen. In emerging drones, however, the lumen contains tanned plate-like structures, the chitin plates, subjacent are small droplets. The chitin plates are connected to each other by a transparent matrix. They consist of globular sclerotized structures which are connected by a network of fibrils. In young adult drones, the dorsal and lateral epithelia consist of highly columnar gland cells which decrease in thickness from the age of 6–12 days from 140 to 20 μm. The ultrastructural analysis combined with histochemistry shows that the gland cells secrete proteinaceous droplets towards the lumen which pass through the cuticle and the pores of the chitin plates and accumulate in the matrix. In sexually mature drones, all secretions have merged to a rigid connective substance, which extends laterally as a thin tapering membrane. The ventral epithelia I and II have no secretory function. The ventral epithelium II has a mucus-like content and several invaginations towards the lumen of the bulbus which enables widening of the bulbus orifice to discharge the bulbus secretions filled with viscous mucus via the cervix into the queen during the mating process.


morphology ontogeny ultrastructure bulbus endophallus honeybees drones 



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Copyright information

© INRA, DIB-AGIB and Springer-Verlag, France 2011

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Zoological InstituteUniversity of LeuvenLeuvenBelgium
  2. 2.Institut für Bienenkunde (Polytechnische Gesellschaft), Fachbereich BiowissenschaftenGoethe Universität, Frankfurt am MainOberurselGermany

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