Do All Bees Sting?

Sara Sabharwal
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If you’re scared of bees, it’s probably because you think they’re going to attack you and sting you – even though they’re docile insects. But, do all bees sting? Should you be afraid of every bee you see?

No, not all bees sting. Almost all types of bees have the ability to sting. Within each species of bee that stings, only the female bees have the ability to sting.

Female bees use their stinger for egg-laying purposes as well as protection. Male bees do not have stingers, since they obviously do not lay eggs.

Unfortunately, it can be incredibly hard to tell a female and male bee apart, so it is always best to give bees their space and respect their homes to avoid being stung. When you see a bee, assume that it has the ability to sting.

Do Male Bees Sting?

Male bees of any species of bees do not have the ability to sting. Male bees simply do not have the anatomy to sting, because they do not have a stinger.

The stinger of a bee is actually part of the reproductive system and helps with laying eggs. Since only female bees lay eggs, male bees do not have stingers. 

While stingers are the most common way that bees can protect themselves and their environments, male bees do play an important part in their partnerships or colonies.

Male carpenter bees will dive at incoming predators and threats. While the male carpenter bees cannot sting, their sheer size and aggressive behaviour are often enough to deter any incoming predators.

Do Female Bees Sting?

Female bees are equipped anatomically with a stinger. The stinger of a female bee is actually a part of the egg-laying process. However, for most female honey bees, the stinger is not used for laying eggs. Only the queen honey bee lays eggs for the entire colony.

Worker female honey bees use their stingers for the sole purpose of protection. When the female worker bee stings a predator, the female bee will die. This happens only in honey bees because honey bees have a barbed stinger that embeds in the skin of the victim of the bee sting.

The bee releases venom during the sting and the venom contains pheromones that call out to other female worker bees to tell them of a possible predator or attack. Honey bees live in colonies and have a responsibility to protect the queen and the hive at all costs.

Other bee species are solitary bees. Carpenter bees live with their mates in tunnel nests dug in wood. Inside the nests, the female and male carpenter bees lay eggs and raise young. The female carpenter bee rarely leaves the nest, making it very rare to be stung by a carpenter bee. 

Do All Bees Die After Stinging You?

No, this is a common myth about bees. Many people assume that all bees die when they sting you. It is only female honey bees that will die after stinging you as they have a barbed stinger that gets stuck in their victim.

Do All Bees Have Barbed Stingers?

No, most bees do not have a barbed stinger. It is the female honey bee which has a barbed stinger. The barbed stinger can be painful when used and will become lodged into your skin.

Which Bee is Least Likely to Sting You? 

Bees in general are very docile creatures. They do not sting unless they feel threatened or if they think their home is in danger. The type of bee that would be least likely to sting you would be a carpenter bee

The reason you are least likely to be stung by a carpenter bee is mainly that it is rare you will encounter a female carpenter bee. Only female bees have stingers, as stingers are actually a part of their reproductive system.

Female carpenter bees spend their lives building nests by carving tunnels in wood to raise their young and are rarely seen outside their nests. 

While male carpenter bees can be intimidating, especially when they dive at you, they are essentially harmless without a stinger. 

Since female carpenter bees are the only ones with stingers, and they spend their time inside their nests, it is rare you will be stung by a carpenter bee.

However, if you try to handle the female carpenter bee or stick your fingers in her nest, she will sting out of self-defence, understandably. It’s a similar situation for sweat bees too!

Is There a Bee That Does Not Sting?

There is actually a species, rather unimaginatively, called the stingless bee. As the name suggests, these bees do not sting. These bees are usually found in tropical climates, however.

Which Bee is Most Likely to Sting You?

While it may seem counterintuitive, honey bees are the most likely bees to sting you. Honey bees will die if they sting, thanks to their barbed stinger that embeds in the skin of their victim.

When the honey bee then flies away, the stinger stays in the flesh of the victim and pulls away from the honey bee. The stinger is attached to a venom pouch within the bee and as it pulls away, it rips out part of the bee, killing it. 

Since honey bees die after stinging, it would seem that it would not be likely for these bees to sting. While honey bees are docile bees and generally keep to themselves, they live in colonies and have an innate desire to protect their colonies and their queen bee.

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This primal protection instinct is what will make a honey bee more likely to sting you than solitary bees. 

When a honey bee stings, it releases venom-filled pheromones. The pheromones are used to alert other honey bees from the hive that there is danger. This will attract other bees to come to protect their hive as well.

If honey bees swarm you, it can be very dangerous and even deadly (just check this news article out. This is why you should never attempt to move, knock, or disrupt an active beehive.

Summary

Although it’s an assumption that people often make, not all bees can sting. One of the easiest ways to differentiate which bees can sting is between male and female bees. Male bees cannot sting and female bees can.


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