Why Are Honey Bees So Docile?

You may spot a few honey bees flying around your garden but they don’t seem overly active or frantic like other bees. So, why are honey bees so docile?

While it is not scientifically known why honey bees are so docile, the fact that the worker bees and scout bees are so busy makes it hard for them to go out of their way to attack. 

Honey bees live in colonies and are all delegated very important jobs within their social hierarchy. Female worker bees will spend their 6-week lives preparing and making honey and stocking the hive with it for the colder months.

Other female worker bees will spend their entire lives within the hive, tending to the queen bee and her eggs. 

Another common answer for why honey bees are docile and less likely to attack is because these bees die when they sting. The honey bee stinger has a barb on the end that embeds into the victim’s skin. When the bee flies away, the stinger is pulled from the bee, killing it. 

Why Do Honey Bees Swarm?

Honey bees swarm most often in the springtime. A common reason for honey bees to swarm is when the eggs begin to hatch, there is limited space within the hive. With all the new additions of bees as well as all the delicious stored honey and nectar, there is not much room left for the bees. 

The bees will begin swarming the outside of their hive while scout bees go out and look for a new place to create a hive. Once they return with the news, the queen bee and about 60% of the hive will go to the found place and start a new hive.

Since 40% of the hive is left behind and the queen is gone, the female worker bees will choose up to 10 larvae and begin the process of looking for a new queen bee. 

During the flight to the new location, the swarm of bees may rest in common places like your house awnings, trees, picnic benches, car rims, and other inconvenient places. 

While this does seem alarming, it is not much to worry about. Most swarms will move on within 24-48 hours as they are just resting before continuing their journey. 

Are Honey Bee Swarms Dangerous?

Honey bee swarms are not inherently dangerous. You should use caution whenever you are around bees, as their stings are painful and some humans are allergic to their venom. If you notice a large swarm of honey bees on your property and you can wait them out, consider allowing them 24-28 hours to move on before calling a local beekeeper. 

If the bees are in a place that is inconvenient or dangerous, call your local beekeeper immediately. They will be able to help the bees by either taking the bees with them or helping them move along. 

Never try to deal with a swarm of honey bees on your own. While they tend to be docile and not interact much with humans, if they are provoked, they will attack.

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A swarm of honey bees is not defending a hive or honey storage, because they do not have any. However, they are trying to protect their queen. Without a hive, the bees are confused and disoriented. 

When a honey bee stings, it releases a pheromone that alerts other bees to the location and the threat. This can call other bees to come and investigate the situation as well. Swarming bees can attack in rare circumstances. It is best to leave the bees their space and let them continue on their journey at their own speed. 

What is the Most Docile Bee?

While almost all bees are docile, there are a few you are less likely to be stung by. Honey bees will not sting unless provoked due to the fact that they will die when their stinger is pulled from their bodies.

These bees only sting when they feel they, their colony, their hive, or their queen is in danger.

Carpenter bees are solitary bees. Only the female carpenter bees have stingers, as the stinger is actually a part of their reproductive system to help lay eggs.

Female carpenter bees will build nests in wood by burrowing tunnels. Once inside, the female bee rarely leaves the nest. Male carpenter bees will be seen outside the nest. While these bees can be pretty intimidating thanks to their size, they cannot bite or sting.

A female carpenter bee will only sting if you try to touch her, pick her up, or stick your finger in the hole of her nest.

What is the Most Docile Honey Bee Type?

Amongst honey bees, there is a range of types. Caucasian bees are reported to be the most docile amongst all honey bees and are highly unlikely to attack you.

What is the Most Aggressive Bee Type?

If you look globally then the most aggressive bee type would be the Africanized “Killer” Bee. The name says it all! This is because they will attack in large numbers.

Summary 

Honey bees are docile creatures that generally stick to themselves. They live in colonies inside of beehives with a queen bee. Honey bees die when they sting, so they only sting when they are provoked. They generally only attack when they feel their hive or colony is threatened. 

Once a year, usually in the springtime, honey bees leave their hive in search of a new home. This causes swarms of honey bees that can be frightening to humans.

However, these bees are usually very docile and while they may swarm in places that are inconvenient for humans, they are only resting and will soon move on to continue their journeys.


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