Bees are gentle creatures. They only sting in defense (which is why they have stingers!)
A lot of us have experienced the painful stab of a bee sting. Bees generally buzz around minding their own business until you frighten them or get them agitated. And then they sting you because you’re a giant threatening creature. (Yes, you are…)
After stinging us, they meet their demise.
But have you ever wondered if bees sting each other… And what happens if they do?
Can bees sting other bees?
Yes, bees can sting each other. For example, if a honey bee tries to enter another colony’s hive, it can be stung and bitten by guard bees at the entrance. These guards may also mistakenly sting other bees from their own nests. In addition, different types of bees, such as bumblebees, sometimes fight and sting each other to access good nesting sites.
Contrary to popular belief, female bees are the only ones that can sting. There are also only certain circumstances under which a bee will sting another bee.
Bees will sting each other and can do so repeatedly without suffering any adverse consequences (unless, of course, they are on the receiving end of the sting!).
Not all bees in a honey bee colony can sting. Only the female bees (the workers and the queen) are equipped with a stinger. Male bees (drones) cannot sting whatsoever.
When they reach about three weeks old, some female bees are nominated “guard” bees. Bees are very defensive of their hive and will fight to the death to defend it!
Guards stand duty at the entrance and “sniff” the other bees as they come and go. Each colony has a distinct hive odor, and bees have a hyper-sensitive olfactory system.
Do bees ever fight each other?
During times of scarcity (for example, when flowers die out in late summer and fall, known as a nectar dearth), other colonies can attempt to rob the stores of other hives. This robbing activity leads to fighting at the entrance, and guard bees will sting the intruding honey bees.
In confusion, guards can sometimes sting bees from their own nest, accidentally killing their own sisters!
What happens if one bee stings another bee?
If a foreign bee from another nest attempts to enter the hive, guards will bite and sting the bee to prevent it from accessing the inside. The venom from a bee’s sting is fatal for other bees.
Fighting between bees from different colonies can result in many deaths. The stinging bee survives, whereas the stung bee will be killed.
Do bees die after stinging another bee?
Female bees have barbed stingers that become lodged in thick-skinned creatures such as humans. However, these stingers do not become lodged in other bees. Bees have a thin exoskeleton made of chitin and wax.
As a result, the guard bees can sting other bees multiple times without dying.
When a bee stings a mammal, its barbed stinger becomes wholly lodged in the animal’s skin.
When the bee tries to fly away, it cannot retract its barbed stinger from its victim. As a result, a significant part of the bee’s body is left behind, including its stinger. This includes a substantial portion of the bee’s abdomen, digestive organs, muscles, and nerves. As you can imagine, this causes significant injury to the bee, killing it shortly after stinging.
Do queen bees fight and sting each other?
Queen honey bees (and bumblebees) are equipped with smoother stingers. As a result, they can administer a sting multiple times without being killed. Queen bees do not sting other bees from the same colony, but they will fight and sting other queen bees that emerge inside the hive.
A queen bee, equipped with a smoother stinger than a worker bee, does not use her stinger to defend the hive. Instead, her stinger is used solely to eliminate other prospective queen bees. This is often done before they can emerge from their cells.
A bee colony can only have one queen. But over time, a queen can become weak, and the colony takes measures to raise a new queen bee.
When a new queen emerges, the two queens will battle to the death. Queen bees will sting each other multiple times, causing one of them to perish. The bee that was stung will die due to the venom administered from the stinger of its attacker.
The victorious queen will also sting and kill any remaining queen larvae in the comb that have not yet emerged, thus ensuring she is the only queen.
With bumblebees, for example, the emergence from winter hibernation is when they establish a new colony. This naturally requires acquiring a nest site.
Good sites for nesting are understandably not easy to come by, so there is often stiff competition for these locations. If two queens happen to find a suitable nesting site simultaneously, the two queens will fight to the death by stinging each other to see who will win the new nesting site. These two prospective queens will sting one another until only one bee remains alive.
Can bees sting themselves?
It is almost physically impossible for a bee to sting itself and die.
While it does not seem physically possible for a bee to sting itself, this unlikely event would most likely kill the bee. However, the thing that would destroy the bee, in this case, would be the venom administered by the sting.
Because bees have thinner skin than mammals, the barbed stinger would not become lodged in the bee’s body, causing the abdominal rupture associated with stinging a thicker-skinned animal.
How Does A Bee’s Stinger Work?
A bee’s stinger is made up of a hollow needle (called a stylet) with a barbed tip (known as lancets). These are attached to the venom sac inside the bee. When a bee stings, the venom travels through the hollow stinger.
The lancets draw the stinger into the skin by alternating up and down. This process repeats until the sting is fully embedded, continuing even after the bee has detached from its stinger.
This rhythmic movement also serves to inject venom into the victim.
About 90% of the venom is injected within the first 20 seconds of a sting. Then, it slowly continues to pump the remaining venom for up to a minute.
If you’ve ever seen a bee stinger in someone’s skin, you’ll see the pulsating action of the fresh stinger!
When a bee stings another bee, it generally only does so for a good reason.
It will be able to fly away because it can dislodge its barbed stinger while stinging the other bee to death.
Not so when the poor bee stings a mammal or a big scary human!
Try not to give them a reason to sting you 🙂