Wonder Friends probably already know how important bees are to the process of pollination. Thanks to bees, our plants and flowers grow and reproduce from year to year. However, bees are best observed from a distance.
If you’ve ever scared a bee, gotten too close or stepped on one, you know it can be a painful experience. Bee stings can hurt a lot and turn an otherwise nice summer day into a day you won’t soon forget for all the wrong reasons!
When most people think of bee stings, they’re thinking of stings from the honey bee. Honey bees that are out and about searching for nectar or pollen away from the hive usually won’t sting anyone. Honey bees at home protecting their hive, however, are another matter entirely.
Honey bees vigorously defend their hives from perceived threats. If you stumble upon a honey bee hive and the bees sense you as a threat, they will actively attack and try to sting you.
When honey bees sting, pheromones are released that can incite other nearby bees to join the attack. One stinging bee can turn into hundreds or even thousands of stinging bees in just a short time.
In a hive, the female worker bees are the bees that sting. The larger male drone bees don’t have stingers. Queen bees also have stingers, but they rarely leave the hive to use them.
When a bee stings you, its sharp, barbed stinger pierces the skin to inject venom called apitoxin. In most cases, the stinger’s barbed end gets stuck in the victim’s skin and tears loose from the bee’s abdomen.
Not only does the stinging bee leave behind its stinger, but it also leaves behind part of its abdomen, digestive tract, muscles and nerves. This massive injury is what kills the bee. The part of the stinger left in the skin can continue to pump venom into the victim for up to 10 minutes or until it is removed.
Honey bees are the only bee species that dies after stinging. However, honey bees can sometimes survive after stinging if the victim’s skin is thin and doesn’t hold the barbed end of the stinger. This doesn’t happen all that often, though, because honey bee stingers are designed to stick in the skin of the victim to maximize the amount of venom injected into the victim.
Bee stings can be quite painful. For some people, though, they can actually be deadly. Some people are allergic to the venom in bee stings. For these people, a sting can trigger an allergic reaction that causes a dangerous — and sometimes deadly — condition called anaphylactic shock.