While the winter months can be cold and snowy, they at least provide us with some relief from the spring and summertime pests. When it comes time for the warmer weather, you can expect to see these familiar insects once more. You may hear the buzzing before you see the familiar black-and-yellow stripes—in this article, we’re focusing on bees.
Bees are actually pretty important for the environment, pollinating plants and flowers and helping things to grow. But that doesn’t mean they can’t be pests in their own right, and if you’re dealing with a lot of them, that’s when things can get annoying.
Most of us know what happens to certain bee species when they go on the attack, but why do bees die after they sting? Let’s take a look at this and some other commonly asked questions associated with bees.
Many animals and insects have defensive or offensive means of protecting themselves against what they perceive to be threats. Bees are no different. Their stingers are their way of protecting themselves and—more importantly—protecting their hive. When a worker bee is out pollinating and they find themselves in a dangerous situation, they will try and sting whatever they are facing. They do this to protect themselves and protect their group back at the hive.
There are several types of bees, including bumblebees, carpenter bees, and honey bees.
Do bees die after stinging? For certain species this is the case, but not all die. A bumblebee, for instance, doesn’t die when it stings. Its stinger is smooth and can therefore be retracted and used multiple times. The same goes for carpenter bees.
When a honey bee stings someone or something, they leave their stinger behind. Most people are aware of this and believe that is the reason why they die—because they need the stinger to survive. It’s not the lack of a stinger that kills honey bees, however. The problem is that they need the digestive tract, muscles, and nerves that they leave behind with the stinger.
Why do bees die when they sting? Like any creature, they need their interior organs to continue living. They cannot function without them.
Honey bee stingers are barbed. They don’t always get pulled out when the bee is stinging something, but in the case of humans and other creatures with thicker skin, the result of losing their stinger is almost always the same.
Once a honey bee’s stinger has been stuck in you, it continues to function as if the bee were still there to propel the stinger deeper into your skin. A group of nerve cells makes the muscles of the stinger left behind continue to work the stinger deeper. Muscular valves pump the toxins from the venom sac into the pierced area—even after the bee is long gone.
The stinger is left behind by the honey bee to work its way deeper into your skin. It serves as a conduit for the poison in the venom sac to be administered into the puncture created by the stinger itself.
We’ve explored why bees die after stinging, but that answer begs another: Why do they sting if it kills them? The simple answer is that it’s in their DNA. Any bee that you would be stung by is programmed to protect its hive at all costs. If they perceive you or anything else as a threat to their home and the queen bee living there, they will do whatever it takes to stop you. In the case of bees, that means using the one thing they have available to them: their sting.
The honey bee’s barbed stinger does make it more difficult to retract it and use it again, but that only happens on certain enemies with thicker skin, as we’ve mentioned. Typically, the bees would be able to continue using their stinger without having it and their organs pulled out. So no, it’s not likely that the honey bee knows they will die if they sting you. However, if they feel the need to go into battle, they’re prepared to die to protect their home.
Now that we know why bees die after they sting you, what can you do about it once it happens? There is really no right or wrong way for removing a stinger. You might have heard you need to flick it off or pluck it out, but the reality is that it just needs to be removed quickly.
Yellowjackets and hornets both have sheaths that slide over the barbed parts of their stingers to disengage any hooking that might occur.
American Pest Control offers the best pest control services for all the potential pests buzzing around your home, including wasps, bees and hornets. Get in touch with our team today to learn how we can help rid you of any excess guests.