Monday, 20 June 2011

Do Bees have Knees? The Bees Knees Origin and Meaning

Do bees have knees, and what does the bees knees mean and origin.
There appears to be lengthy debates on the Internet as to whether bees have knees or not. I found this more interesting than the origin and meaning of the saying The Bees Knees. There is no gray area in the questions and comments that I read. People either believe that bees have knees or they don’t, but none of the arguments that I read were convincing when evaluating the arguments for and against.

So I wandered off and decided to form my own opinion, for better or for worse.
Place to start was the definition of a knee in medical terms. There is no shortage of definitions, so, the decision was made to focus on one source namely, “Life Sciences & Allied Applications / Anatomy.”
The definition of a knee is as follows
The joint of the human leg connecting the tibia and fibula with the femur and protected in front by the patella ."

First to mind, is that this a definition of a knee, as in human, not as in insect and consists of an upper leg connected to a lower leg by a tendon (not stated in the definition) and covered by a knee cap.
So, by human definitions the bee does not have knees as there is no patella, ergo, no knees.
But bees are not human they are insects, so is there a definition of an insects knee somewhere in an entomology dictionary or published paper?
None that I could find, and this includes detailed drawings of the insect and online entomology articles and entomology dictionary searches.
Pop around to Bee Anatomy at for an example of the complex anatomy of a bee leg

So, my subjective interpretation is if that entomologists do not refer to a bees knees, therefore a bee does not have knees.
But then as usual one finds a definition from a reliable source that resets interpretations back to zero. Merriam-Webster definitions include a reference to “ the joint between the femur and and the tibia of an inscet”. No reference is made to a patella as being part of the definition.
So according to this definition a bee knee can exist, the joint between the two leg components being the knee.
Back to square one.
What about birds? The best I could find was a “Tibio-tarsal articulation”, which does not specify a patella.
Inanimate objects are also referred to having knees, but as in a pivotal action resembling the action of a leg with a knee. So, if anything can bend can it be called a knee?
To be honest, I am too lazy and frustrated to go that route at the moment.
My subjective conclusion, until an Entomologist will tell me otherwise, is that humans have knees, and insects have a leg construction that functions like a human knee.
The original intention of this post was to find out what “The Bees Knees” meant and origin. This is easy compared to the knee story. This is a nonsensical saying that originated sometime soon after the First World War (circa 1920’s), as did many other silly sayings. It means something of excellence. This sorted my perception out, as I was under the impression that it is a derogatory term, as in “ He/she thinks he/she’s the bees knees”, alluding to someone pretending to be better than the reality of the situation. A state of the art mobile phone can be referred to as the "bees knees”, when considered the best available.
Image fron Wikipedia
That’s it.....
Update/Edit : 20 June 2011
Most visitors to this page Googled " do bees have knees?". What I did not refer to in the above is that the hind legs carry pollen, and the pollen could create the perception that the inscet has knees