Why Do Bees Die After Stinging?


Dead Tree Bumble Bee

One thing that many people are confused about is whether bees die after they sting. The confusion comes because some stinging insects such as wasps can sting multiple times whereas most bees will die after they sting. But why do bees die after stinging a person or animal?

What Happens When Bees Sting?

Not all bees are capable of stinging and of those that can, it is only the honeybee that will die after stinging. This is because the honeybee has what is known as a ‘barbed’ stinger. The stinger has two barbed lancets. When it stings, these lancets pierce the skin of the victim, but they cannot be pulled back out by the bee. As the bee tries to fly away, the stinger detaches from its body and remains in the victim. Unfortunately, because the stinger is attached to the abdomen of the bee, a part of this comes away too, along with a part of the digestive tract. This obviously results in a fatal injury for the bee.

Do Bees Know They Die When They Sting?

You might then be wondering why a bee would sting if it were going to die afterwards, or whether the bee is even aware that it will die after stinging. Those that work closely with bees generally believe that the bee is well aware that it will die after it stings and that, because of this, it will only do so as a last resort.

Most of the time, honeybees will go about their business and will move from flower to flower collecting nectar and pollen. It will leave humans and animals alone and will only sting if it perceives a direct threat to itself or its home.

Can a Bee Survive After Stinging?

As already mentioned, a honeybee’s stinger remains behind after it has been used. When the bee flies away, part of its abdomen, digestive tract, nerves, and muscles are left behind. This massive tear leads to the death of the bee – there is no way it can survive this trauma.

However, the honeybee is the only bee with a barbed stinger, and it is only the female worker bees that have this type of stinger. Male drones do not have a stinger and the queen’s stinger is not barbed, meaning she can sting multiple times without dying.

Other species of bee can also sting multiple times as their stingers are not barbed.

honeybee in flight

Do Bees Sting for No Reason?

A bee will never sting for no reason and will only do so to protect itself or its home. Honeybees are aware that to sting will cause fatal injury and will only do so as a means of slowing down the would-be predator. When bee’s sting humans or animals, it is because they believe they are under attack.

Once a bee stings, its stinger injects venom into the victim. The stinger that is left behind continues to pump toxins into the person or animal for several minutes. This is why it is important to remove a bee sting immediately, by whatever means possible.

A dying bee will also release a chemical or scent that alerts other bees to its demise. Bees in the surrounding area perceive this scent as danger and may then try to attack the predator. This is much more common when a threat is perceived around the hive.

Why Do Bees Chase You When You Run?

You may have heard that bees will chase you if you try to run away, and this is true in some instances. Bees are very protective of their home and will defend it at all costs. If they see you as a threat when you approach, they may begin to angrily buzz around your head. This is why many beekeepers will use smokers to calm the bees before they work in and around the hive.

If you happen upon a hive and the bees begin buzzing around your head and face, your first instinct may be to run. However, this is not recommended because it is a sudden movement and is perceived as a direct threat. Some bees, such as Africanized bees, will chase for up to a quarter-of-a-mile!

It is better to back away from angry bees slowly and without making any sudden movements. Do not flail your arms around, even if the bees are buzzing around you, as this will only aggravate them and possibly result in you being stung.

Summary

Female honeybees have barbed stingers that remain behind in a person or animals’ skin after it stings. When the bee flies away, a part of its abdomen is ripped away, along with some of the digestive tract, nerves, and muscles. A bee is unable to survive such massive internal injuries and will die.

Bees only sting when they are under threat because they are aware that they will die afterwards. When they die, they release a scent that alerts other bees to danger. If the bees believe their home is under threat, they may attack.

Anthony

Anthony is a content creator by profession but beekeeping is one of his great passions.

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