honey bee, spermatheca

Spermatheca of honey bee queen. After Snodgrass (1956, fig. 106ab) [1].

b - duct of spermathecal gland
d - spermathecal duct
m - muscles of spermathecal duct (marked red)
Odl - oviduct
Spt - spermatheca
SptGld - spermathecal gland
Vag - vagina

Spermatheca (plural: spermathecae), also called receptaculum seminis, is a circular sack which is connected with oviduct by spermathecal duct (ductus spermaticus). It is fully developed only in queens. In workers it is vestigial and non functional even in laying workers [2]. The below description refers to queen's spermatheca.
Before mating the spermatheca is filled with spermathecal fluid produced by tubular spermathecal gland. At this time it is translucent. After mating the spermatheca is filled with spermatozoa and it becomes opaque with whitish marble pattern. Diameter of the spermatheca is about 1.1 millimetres. For details of anatomy see [3][4][5][6].
Other references: [7][8]


  1. Snodgrass R.E. (1956) Anatomy of the honey bee. Comstock Publishing Associates, Ithaca, pp. 334.
  2. Anderson R.H. (1963) The laying worker in the Cape honey bee, Apis mellifera capensis. J. Apic. Res. 2:85-92.
  3. Bresslau E. (1905) Der Samenblasengang der Bienenkönigin. Zoologischer Anzeiger 29:299-323.
  4. Adam A. (1912) Bau und Mechanismus des Receptaculum seminis bei den Bienen, Wespen, and Ameisen. Zoologische Jahrbücher - Abteilung für Anatomie und Ontogenie der Tiere 35:1-74.
  5. Camargo J.M.F., Mello M.L.S. (1970) Anatomy and histology of the genital tract, spermatheca, spermathecal duct and glands of Apis mellifica queens (Hymenoptera: Apidae). Apidologie 1:351-374.
  6. Dallai R. (1975) Fine structure of the spermatheca of Apis mellifera. Journal of Insect Physiology 21:89–109.
  7. Poole H.K. (1970) The wall structure of the honey bee spermatheca with comments about its function. Annals of the Entomological Society of America 63:1625–1628.
  8. Poole H.K. (1972) The effect of tracheal interruption on the spermathecal wall of the queen honey bee. Proceedings of the Society for experimental biology and medicine 139:701–703.