What Happens When Bees Sting Each Other?

We know too well that a bee can, and will, sting a human. Did you know that a bee can sting another bee? There are various reasons for this, which aren’t really that surprising.

Bees are very territorial, and so the stinger is useful for when defending their hive. Bees can also become easily stressed, using their stinger to protect themselves when in a stressful situation. These two situations blend in together, making a bee a force to reckoned with.

When Does a Female Bee Use Her Sting?

Not all bees have the ability to sting. Male bees, also known as drones, don’t have a stinger. Only female bees — workers and the queen — have stingers, which are used to inject venom into their target. Despite discoveries of human benefits from bee venom, it’s fatal to other bees.

There are two main instances when a bee will sting another bee:

  • Danger
  • Stress

When in Danger

When female bees, or worker bees, are old enough to go out of their cells — after 21 days — some of them become guard bees of the hive because their stingers are stronger. 

Bees will protect their hives with their lives and will only allow bees that belong to their hive to enter. When an intruder forces entry into the hive, guard bees will release a pheromone. This signals a warning to the other bees, which come out of the hive to attack the intruders.

Normally, when bees are away from their nests, they’re searching for nectar or pollen. At this time, they’re focused on collecting the nectar and aiming to go back home. In such a situation, unless they get attacked or put through stress, they won’t care about the goings-on around them.

If Bees Are Stressed

This is usually a reaction against humans more than other bees. Even so, only in extreme occasions will honey bees sting a human. For that to happen, they would need to feel very stressed. For example, when you “shoo” a bee aggressively, when you accidentally step on a bee or even when you try to kill one.

If a bee is buzzing around you, the worst thing you can do is cause it stress or make it feel like it’s in danger. There are some things you should do to avoid a bee sting, but do NOT swat it or flail your arms about.

Difference When Stinging Other Bees and Mammals

The stinging process varies when a bee is confronted with a mammal, especially humans, or another bee. 

When Stinging Mammals

When humans are stung by a bee, because of the thickness of our skin, it’s near impossible for the bee to take her sting out. 

Their survival instinct makes them fly away, while the stinger is still connected between the bee and the skin. The result is the death of the bee. This is due to parts of their digestive tract, muscles and nerves being attached to the stinger.

When Stinging Other Bees

Bees don’t have skin; therefore, whenever a bee stings another bee, the stinger doesn’t get stuck. This also means that bees can sting other bees multiple times without dying, in contrast to stinging humans and other mammals.

What Happens to the Stung Bee?

When new queen bees emerge, they will seek another queen bee to fight for power in the hive, through stinging. This fight will only end when one of the queen bees survives since queen bees don’t coexist in one hive.

Death is caused due to multiple stings, where the queen bee that got stung can’t survive several injuries in her body.

[Video – Queen bee stinging another bee]

After the death of the queen bee, the workers surround her body, and together they take it out of their hive. The surviving queen bee proceeds with her normal life, going out to start the mating process with drones, which is the primary role of these male bees.

The Power of the Stingers

Did you know that the stinger power between the queen and workers differs?

  • Workers: Worker bees’ stingers have barbs, which makes it almost impossible to remove the stinger when it’s stuck on thicker skin
  • Queen: The stinger of a queen bee is smoother and has smaller barbs, allowing her to sting multiple times, even on a mammal

Male bees don’t have stingers, but it’s very interesting how we’re still afraid of them. When they feel threatened, they buzz loudly and curve their abdomen towards anything that’s attacking them. This insinuates that they’re aiming their stinger towards us, when in fact, it’s just a show of force.

Conclusion

There’s no denying that bees are amazing, focused on working and protecting their hive. When they feel stressed, in danger or if outsider bees attempt to enter their hive, the female bees will attack with their stingers.

Since any one hive can only have a single queen bee, a fight to the death by way of stinger ensues. The cycle repeats throughout the hive’s life, with the dominant queen at the time being the only survivor.

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