One way to help classify a bee taxonomically is to investigate the tibial spurs. The tibial spurs stick out from where the tibia meets the basitarsus and can be found on any of the legs, though are most commonly on the hind and midlegs. They’re movable and multiple spurs can be found on the same leg. Small, immovable spikes called tibial spines eject from the spurs.
Tibial spurs are used mainly to dig nests into substrate and they vary according to what material the bees use for nesting substrate. European honeybees (Apis mellifera) don’t have tibial spurs because they build wax combs and have no need to dig.
This information is also available from the University of Calgary Invertebrate collection, where it was curated as part of a study on design inspired by bees.Edit Summary
“The tibial spurs are the movable inferior apical spurs on the tibiae; there is one spur (part of the strigilis) on the front tibia, one on the middle tibia, and in nearly all bees two on the hind tibia. The tibial spines (Fig. 10-9) are immovable, sharp, superior apical projections, usually small in size, often blunt or minute, found in some bees. There are none, one, two, or rarely three spines per tibia; often they are mere angles.” Michener, 2007:51