Why do bees sting?

Let's face it, getting stung by a bee is no fun.  Despite a honeybee's small size and cute appearance, they pack a punch!  Honeybees typically only sting as a defense mechanism to protect themselves, their colony, or their hive.

For this reason, there's really no need to fear honeybees. 

Why do bees sting?

As long as you aren't threatening the honeybee or their hive, they are very docile creatures.  

Enjoy observing honeybees as they forage on flowers without fear.

If you're planning on going into an active honeybee hive, be sure to wear a beekeeping suit to avoid getting stung, read about our recommendations: Best Beekeeping Suits

And yes, Bees can sting through clothes.

Why do bees sting?

The reason you're here is to find out why bees sting. 

There are different reasons why bees sting.  As stated earlier, they usually only sting when their hive is threatened, since the deployment of a stinger by a honeybee results in their death.

Bees aren't necessarily aware that the act of stinging may be equivalent to an act of suicide, they're simply attempting to defend themselves, their colony, or their hive.

This is one of the primary reasons why bees sting. In addition, the act of stinging causes the production of a particular pheromone that serves as a warning signal to the other hive members.

When this is discovered, it triggers the other bees protective fight or flight reflexes, turning them hostile and prompting them to sting any surrounding threats quite indiscriminately. 

Why do bees sting?

How to protect yourself from bee stings

  • Read our previous article on honeybee protective clothing.
  • Read our article on top beekeeping suits
  • Put on shoes before venturing outside. People often get stung by bees because they walk on them accidentally.
  • If you plan on spending time outside, you should avoid using scented products like perfume and cologne.
  • Keep all meals, especially those high in sugar, well covered when outside.
  • Bees are attracted to rubbish, so it's best to keep trash cans covered or stay away from the area.
  • If you come across a beehive, it's best to keep your distance and let others around you know. If the colony poses a hazard to humans, it should be removed by a professional beekeeper who should be called immediately.
  • If you have an allergy to stings, you should be careful around honeybees.
  • Honeybee stingers dig into your skin and should be removed. More venom is absorbed into the skin the longer a stinger is embedded in it. You may safely and effectively remove a stinger by swiping it with a straight-edged instrument, such as your fingernail. New studies highlight the simple importance of swiftly removing the stinger.
  • Use soap and water to clean the area.
  • To minimize swelling, use a cold compress.

Why do bees sting?

How do Bees Sting?

Pollination of blooming plants, such as many of the fruits and vegetables that we eat, as well as the flowers that we grow in our gardens, is dependent on bees.

Bees play an extremely vital role in this process. Many people have a phobia of bees and other animals that have stingers, despite bees' important function in many terrestrial ecosystems.

Gaining a deeper grasp of these insects is one of the most significant measures that must be taken to overcome that anxiety.

Stinging insects use their stingers primarily for two reasons: for defense and predation. Both honeybees and bumble bees employ their stingers only for self-defense.

Bees foraging away from their hive are unlikely to sting unless they are trodden on or subjected to unnecessary provocation.

They are typically too preoccupied with finding pollen and nectar to be annoyed by an interested observer or random person walking by. 

Even though similar structures are used for depositing eggs in other insects (including queen bees), a worker bee's stinger is only used for defense. This is because the stinger of a queen bee is much longer and more complex than a worker bee.

Male honeybees, called drones do not have stingers and are not a threat to anyone.

In contrast to bumble bees, honeybees can only deliver a single sting because their stinger detaches after each usage. The stinger of honeybee has barbs, but the stinger of a bumble bee is smooth and enables the bee to deliver several stings.

The stingers are connected to two primary glands, the venom gland and the Dufour's gland, responsible for producing the combined contents of the injected venom.

Why do bees sting?

Because a honeybee stinger continues to emit venom even after it has been separated from the bee it is best to remove it as soon as possible. The two barbs continue to move back and forth, sawing into the victim's skin even after the stinger detaches from the honeybee.

What happens when a bee stings?

With each sting, a bee attempts to end the life of the person or thing she is attacking. The sting from a bee is slightly curved and serrated. Because of these features, it is a potent tool for combating other insects.

When a bee strikes an opponent, the toll taken on them is not just the result of the sting itself but also of the poison it delivers.

The stinger is used to inject enough venom to kill the target, which is accomplished by contracting muscles surrounding the venom glands.

When a honeybee's stinger meet other insects that are threatening a beehive, it is possible for the honeybee to live.  This is because the honeybee's stinger may not penetrate into the insects rigid armor.  

he honeybee faces death only when the stinger makes penetration into the target.  In this scenario, the stinger becomes stuck due to the ridges on the stinger and causes the stinger to detach from the honeybee, resulting in death. 

The stinger is made up of two barbs that pulse back and forth, muscles in the stinger continue to pulse even after it detaches from the bee.  The gland also continues to pump venom after detachment.


(source: Getty Images)

Bees sting effects humans

There are several situations in which the bee could strike a human. Bees are generally peaceful creatures that will not attack unless provoked. In contrast, the wasps may be rather hostile. 

When a bee feels threatened, it will usually sting. When we get too close to a nest, for instance.

The biggest threat for humans is a swarm of honeybees attacking at one time.  This is possible due to the phermones that are released when a single honeybee stings.  This triggers the other honeybees to attack.

The elastic nature of human skin prevents the bee from retracting its stinger after each strike. 

The bee sting is serrated, as the bee flies away, the stinger remains attached to our epidermis and eventually detaches itself, taking with it a portion of the bee's internal organs. This causes the bee's death.

Why do bees sting?

Queen bee stings

Did you know that worker bees and queen bees use completely distinct types of stingers? And some bees are totally harmless.

Females have a stinger. Male bees (also known as drones) lack venom sacs and are unable to sting.

Males may be identified by their lack of stingers, which can be seen on close inspection. The very end of their bodies is considerably more clearly defined, rather than having the traditional pointed form seen in female specimens.

As was previously mentioned, worker bees defend themselves with their slightly hooked, serrated sting. King and queen bees have distinctive stings. A queen bee's sting is smooth and straight, and she employs it as a means of procreation. As a result of the sting, the queen can deposit eggs into the cells.

Reproduction is limited to queen bees. They swap bees within a swarm and produce new offspring by laying fertilized eggs.

Bee Defenses 

Keeping the hive safe is a top priority. Typically, the oldest bees in a colony are selected to serve as guardians. Given the increased danger of this position, only the most seasoned bees are chosen to fill it.

The larger bees are prepared to sacrifice themselves to protect the nest, as they are seen as disposable. 

All the swarm's participation is not ruled out at this point. Whole families often band together to defend themselves from more serious assaults. There are a variety of processes at work here.

Bees employ several strategies to defeat predators. Swarms utilize a variety of tactics, not just the sting, to accomplish their goals. 

When a predator breaks inside the hive, the entire colony becomes scared. The bees swarm together, enclose the intruder's body, and raise its internal temperature to the point where it suffocates to death. 

The honeybee colony is a close-knit family unit. They become closer in the face of peril and are willing to risk death for one other.  

How to Treat a Bee Sting

Honeybees only have one sting and can't sting twice since their venom sac is on an external stinger. There is a constant flow of venom from the venom sac via the stinger and into the injury.

Delaying removal of the stinger increases the amount of venom delivered to the victim; therefore, doing it as soon as possible is crucial. It is standard practice to scrape off the stinger rather than pull it out since squeezing the sac to draw it out can drive the leftover venom into the wound, increasing the quantity of venom received. 

Many individuals turn to various medical and home cures for dealing with stings, but ice is by far the most effective. Antihistamines can lessen the swelling, and pain relievers can help with the pain. 

Bee stings cause swelling, redness, itching, and a dull aching or agony at the site. Within a few days, you should feel better, but if your symptoms persist or worsen, visit a doctor.

Seek medical treatment if you develop a headache or any symptoms of nausea, vomiting, throat swelling, trouble breathing, cramping, or sleepiness.

Allergies to Stings 

While most individuals respond very mildly to bee stings, a tiny fraction of the population can have a life-threatening anaphylactic shock. As soon as possible, treatment should begin for this potentially fatal response.

As the severity of an allergic reaction to a bee sting increases, the victim may experience symptoms such as a dry cough, irritation of the eyes, or hives, and eventually chest tightness, trouble breathing, and even loss of consciousness. If immediate medical attention is not given, anaphylactic shock can be fatal.

Those who are allergic to bee stings should take precautions to prevent getting stung.  They should also carry an autoinjector containing epinephrine, a hormone that speeds up the heart and loosens the muscles in the lungs, just in case. 

Desensitization programs can help people allergic to stings by giving them a series of venom injections at progressively larger amounts. There is a high success rate, but the process takes months to complete. Avoid trying to implement this regimen without the supervision of a qualified medical professional.

Bee sting therapy - Apitherapy 

Apitherapy is the practice of employing honeybee byproducts, including honey, propolis, pollen, royal jelly, and even bee venom, for therapeutic purposes.

Apitherapy, which consists mostly of using honey and other bee products, has been around for a long time.

Bee venom has recently gained popularity as a treatment for various musculoskeletal conditions. Despite widespread claims to the contrary, the scientific community is still debating whether bee venom is indeed beneficial as a cure. 

It has been said that venom exposure is potentially harmful; thus, it is important to take precautions while working with venom and always see a qualified medical professional before beginning any venom regimen.

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