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Bug word of the day — “corbicula”

“Corbicula” is pronounced more or less the way it looks — “corr-BICK-yuh-luh” — and it’s a good example of a technical term that’s needed, but doesn’t necessarily get the job done any better than the common term.

In this case, that common term is “pollen basket.”

Let’s back up for a moment — you’ve seen honeybees, right?

When they stop off at flowers to gather nectar, they often get pollen grains stuck to their bodies.

Fastidious creatures that they are, bees are constantly grooming those pollen grains off of themselves, and storing them in a wide, slightly hollowed-out area on their rear legs.

That’s the pollen basket, aka corbicula. You can see it in the photo above — it’s

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the portion of the bee’s leg with that white and yellow material on it.

As you’ve probably noticed already, when a bee has accumulated a good-sized lump of pollen, you can’t even see the corbicula, really. It just looks like the bee is wearing a big, colorful lump as a fashion statement.

But without the corbicula, presumably, the pollen would just kind of fall away during the grooming.

That would be very bad for honeybees, because they eat pollen.

And we need all the honeybees we can get, right kids?

Incidentally, the term corbicula also happens to be the genus name for a group of freshwater clams. We’re not sure why, but we’re almost positive that molluscs don’t gather pollen.

Photo by Beatriz Moisset