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Do Bumblebees Have Hearts?

Jane Lindholm
Arthropods, including bumblebees have a heart that's like a straw running down their back. Their open circulatory system bathes their organs with blood.

This episode is all about bugs! We've gotten a lot of questions from you about insects and other critters. So we're tackling them with the help of Jessica Honaker and Kristie Reddick, otherwise known as the Bug Chicks.

Download our learning guides: PDF | Google Slide | Transcript

Jess and Kristie are entomologists, people who study insects. The Bug Chicks travel around the U.S. and beyond teaching kids and adults about the wonderful world of bugs and trying to convince bug-skeptics that you shouldn't hate or fear insects, but should learn about all the amazing things they do.

"Do bumblebees have hearts?" — Dylan, 7, from Jericho, Vt.

Yes, but ..."Arthropods have a different kind of circulatory system than we have." Arthropods are animals with exoskeletons, segmented bodies and jointed appendages. Bumblebees are arthropods. "They do have a heart but it's a long tube and it runs along the top of their back. It's on the dorsal side. Instead of having veins like we have that hold the blood that flows through our bodies, they have an open circulatory system. So their blood bathes their organs.

Credit Dylan's mom / courtesy
Dylan is seven years old. He lives in Jericho, VT with his Mom, Dad, younger brother Mason and a very patient dog named Rosie. He loves being outside and climbing trees.

"If you have ever been in the car with your folks or with friends and you run through a swarm of insects and you see that yellow-green splatter on the car? That is bug blood. It's called hemolymph.

"The heart is like an open tube. Imagine a straw. It goes from the head of the insect down to the abdomen on the back, along the back side. Imagine if you poked holes in side of the straw, all the way down the side. Those holes are called ostia and they help pump the blood in and around the insect body."

"What do mosquitoes do in the winter?" - Lila, 7, Middlebury, Vt.

Credit Melody Bodette / VPR
Lila, 7, lives in Middlebury, Vt. She loves reading, science, art and swimming.

"It depends on the kind of mosquito. There a lots of different species of mosquitoes. Some mosquitoes in the late summer and early fall will lay winter-hardy eggs. Basically, these are eggs that can live and exist in their egg form over the winter. Sometimes they're laid in the soil and then when it rains or when snow melts, pools of water will form and that's where an egg for a mosquito loves to hatch in the spring and early summer.

"Sometimes you'll get what we call over-wintering as an egg. Sometimes you'll get over-wintering as larvae as well. Mosquito larvae live in water. Some of them like really dirty water and some prefer cleaner water. They wiggle, and squiggle and kind of flop around in water and they will do that over the winter in warmer areas where the water doesn't freeze. So that's what mosquitoes do over the winter. You just don't see them as often because it's cold and you're not out poking around in the dirt when it's so cold out."

— The Bug Chicks, Jessica Honaker and Kristie Reddick

Listen to the full episode for more bug questions: Why are insects so small? Why do we have mosquitoes? And why do I feel itchy all over when I think about ticks?


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