- Honeybees die after stinging due to a barbed stinger. After one bee stings, a distinct smell is sent to the hive and other worker bees to alert the colony that one of their own is under attack.
- When beekeepers are knowledgeable in their art and have a healthy relationship with their bees, the bees form a sense of trust.
- If you get stung by a bee, remove the stinger, wash the area, and apply a warm compress.
What Happens to Honeybees After They Sting?
Once thought as nothing more than pests — thanks to activists over the past few decades — bees have become more and more appreciated for the skillful honey producers and pollinators they are!
Unless you’ve mistaken a bumblebee for a wasp or hornet, it’s best to leave them be; they have thousands of flowers to pollinate and honey to produce! For a long time, bees were neglected and even attacked, and it shows in their decreasing population numbers.
Yet, today, New Zealand is home to some of the healthiest bee populations in the world, but that didn’t come easy. There are many regulations that were put in place by the New Zealand government to ensure the bees of the region are treated with care and respect.
So, let's learn more about honeybees and their sting and finally separate fact from fiction. After all, we have much to thank these buzzing insects for!
What Happens to Honeybees After They Sting?
The process that follows a honeybee sting — while not enjoyable for the person stung — is especially painful for the bee.
Honeybees aren’t configured to live past a sting. The anatomy of their bodies makes it impossible to remove the stinger once it penetrates through the skin. The bee will likely die after the sting as the odd shape of its body causes abdominal rupture shortly after its pinching blow.
Honeybee stingers, unlike those of wasps, have barbed stingers that embed into the surface of whatever or whoever is being stung. These stingers comprise two barbed lancets and a venom sac, which can irritate human skin if the venom is released.
After one bee stings, a distinct scent is sent to the other worker bees; this alarm pheromone alerts the rest of the colony that one of their own is under attack, and to prepare to defend themselves (and the hive).
Usually, if you’re stung by a single bee, the rest won’t bother you unless you’re close to their hive. You should be careful around honeybee hives because they can hold thousands of bees, and if you’re near the hive when stung, chances are that other bees may attack too.
Differences Between Solitary Bees and Honeybees
There are two types of bees: honeybees and native bees. Native bees are usually solitary, meaning they don’t belong to a hive.
Honeybees are responsible for a majority of the world's honey production, but we can thank the native bees for pollinating most of our flowers, trees, fruits, and veggies. Honeybees are the only bees that will die post-attack as their stinger's anatomy differs from other bees.
Unless swatted or stomped on, native bees generally don’t die after stinging a person or animal.
Only Female Bees Can Sting
A common misconception is that all hive members are responsible for honey production, but that’s not the case. Only female bees (worker bees) are responsible for leaving the hive and collecting nectar.
This is because male bees don’t have stingers, and the queen bee only leaves the nest if she’s swarming (leaving for good). Each member of the colony has a unique job.
Bees (honeybees especially) are extremely intelligent creatures and can perform difficult tasks, such as intricate nest development and forming social structures within their hive. They’re also highly communicative insects and rely on the queen's pheromones for direction.
Female bees work on nectar collection and honey production, the males mate with the queen, and the queen bee lays fertilized (and unfertilized) eggs until she reaches the end of her life. Fertilized eggs become females, and unfertilized eggs become males.
Each day after the queen has laid thousands of eggs, the drones (male bees) will surround her and perform the daily ritual of grooming and feeding her rich royal jelly (a creamy, white protein-rich secretion that comes from the drone's heads).
During this ceremony, the queen releases pheromones spread throughout the hive by the other bees. The pheromones the queen releases can affect the entire behavior of the hive, which is why having a happy and healthy queen is essential for the longevity of the colony.
Do the Bees That Produce Manuka Honey Sting?
There are over 20,000 species of bees worldwide; while the species of bee doesn’t change the type of honey they make, the region in which they nest does.
At Manukora, our Western honeybees favor the sweet nectar of the unique Manuka tree, located in the Golden Triangle of the New Zealand forest.
The resulting Manuka honey is unique in taste, texture, and concentration of beneficial nutrients. While our bees are to thank for its production, they aren’t the reason it’s packed full of beneficial nutrients.
Manuka honey’s advantageous assets are mostly thanks to its high levels of MGO (Methylglyoxal), an organic nutrient from the Manuka nectar with antibacterial properties, as well as Leptosperin, DHA, and prebiotics.
As stated, most honeybees won’t bother (or sting) you unless they feel threatened. From our beekeepers’ experiences, we can attest to that. Our beekeepers are careful not to overstimulate the bees, making for a healthy, happy relationship.
When you have a good relationship with your bees and practice ethical beekeeping, the bees tend to form a sense of trust.
What Should I Do If I Get Stung by a Bee?
While honeybee stings are pretty uncommon, that’s not to say they never happen.
If you get stung by a honeybee, try to look around and ensure you aren’t near the hive.
Once you’re out of harm's way, you’ll want to care for the sting — infected stings are far more uncomfortable than the sting itself. You’ll need to find and remove the stinger, wash the sting site, and apply a compress to help with any swelling.
The good thing is that the pain generally subsides within a day or so unless you're allergic to bee venom. Contact your doctor immediately if you’re allergic to bee venom or have an allergic reaction. Now, allergic reactions aside, let's take a closer look at what to do when you get stung.
Step One: Find the stinger.
It’s not uncommon for the stinger to get stuck under the skin. While honeybees don’t have smooth stingers, the extraction process is still fairly easy.
The stinger will be attached to a venom sac that continues delivering venom to your skin even after the bee is gone, so it’s important to locate and remove the stinger as soon as you can. The area will most likely become infected if the stinger isn't removed.
Wash your hands before trying to remove the stinger to ensure you’re not pushing bacteria into the wound. If you can’t get the stinger with your fingers alone, use a clean pair of tweezers to gently pull the stinger out.
Step Two: Wash the area.
Wash the area with warm water and soap. If you feel extra irritation or a sharp pinch, that may be the stinger still in your skin.
Step Three: Apply a cool compress.
Applying a cool compress to the area should help relieve some of the ensuing swelling. You can use a small bag of ice wrapped in a clean towel, or a gel pack wrapped in a paper towel — while you do want the cold to help soothe the sting site, you never want to apply ice directly to a wound.
Without bees, we’d have no sweet honey, and most of our flowers, trees, and plants, in general, would be no more. Some people view honeybees as pests, but recently, many have realized just how important our little friends are.
All bees play vital roles in our ecosystem, so when you see a honeybee, there’s no need to swat it — chances are they’re just looking for some nectar to indulge in or a little sugar to slurp up.
Check out our blog for more information about Manuka honey and the special insects that create it.
Can bees sting more than once?
Most bees, including bumblebees and wasps, can sting multiple times because they have smooth stingers that can be easily withdrawn without causing them any harm. However, honeybees have a barbed stinger that gets lodged in the skin, and when they try to fly away, it tears away from their bodies, causing them to die.
What is the purpose of a bee's stinger?
A bee's stinger is primarily a defense mechanism. Bees use their stingers to protect their colony from threats. The stinger delivers a dose of venom that causes pain and deters predators.
How can I avoid getting stung by a bee?
To avoid getting stung, it's best to keep a safe distance from a bee's hive, avoid swatting at bees, and refrain from wearing bright colors or floral patterns which might attract them. If a bee comes near you, stay calm and slowly move away.
Can bees remember faces?
Surprisingly, research suggests that honeybees can indeed recognize human faces. They use their vision and cognitive abilities to distinguish and remember patterns, which can include faces.