Why Do Bees Sting ?
Honey bees are certainly not the only bees. But they are perhaps the most well-known bees. Honey bees are known for making honey and pollinating crops. Most of us become acquainted with honey bees in our youth. My childhood featured many days of running barefoot through the clover and that resulted in bee stings on more than one occasion. I was in pain and angry at the bees. Why do honey bees sting me, I didn’t do anything wrong. Or so, I felt.
In truth, the little honey bees, working to collect food, had no wish to hurt me. Honey bees, in general, are not aggressive. All bees sting as a form of defense. They are trying to drive you away – it is a rather effective technique – isn’t it?
Sting Relief on Hand Is a Good Idea
Chances are you will get stung at some point. Do you enjoy being outdoors? You will probably meet a bee at some point in your life. And we beekeepers are even more subject to bee stings. If you have bee hives or a lot of bee friendly flowers in your yard, it is not a bad idea to have some first aid ready.
Stop the Sting is popular among beekeepers that I know. Many of them like to keep a tube of this ointment in their beekeeper tool box. Sometimes, bee stings are not intentional -but it still hurts. Be prepared.
Do Honey Bees Sting For No Reason?
Ask any young child to tell you what they know about bees. The fact that bees sting will certainly come up in the conversation.
I was doing a school program one time on honey bees, I asked the 3rd graders to tell me “When you think about honey bees what is the first thing to come to mind?” One little boy yelled out “getten stung”. His answer generated a lot of laughs and agreement. I said, “Yes, they certainly do sting sometimes but the answer I was looking for was that they make honey.”
This resulted in a good laugh for everyone and then we listened to several traumatic tales of getting stung by bees. It may seem that bees sting us – just because they can. But, honey bees do not sting for no reason.
They will sting when they feel threatened (don’t swat!). And honey bees will sting and attack in defense of their hive. This is a great reason to stay well away from beehives. Give the bees plenty of flying space near the hive and especially in front of the beehive.
All Female Honey Bees Can Sting
Most of the bees in the hive can sting. The largest population of bees are female workers. Do worker bees sting? Yea, Baby!
The stinger of a worker honey bee is barbed on the end. When she stings your skin (or that of any mammal), the barb gets caught. She can not remove the stinger. The stinger and the poison sac is pulled from her body and she dies. She has given her life in defense of the colony.
Not every honey bee in the hive has a stinger. A family of honey bees can consist of over 50,000 bees during the middle of summer when the colony is at its largest population. Inside the hive, you will find 3 types of bees – a queen, drones and workers.
The colony normally contains 1 queen bee. A queen bee is the mother of all and she lays eggs. She does have a stinger but she only uses it to sting rival queens. So Yes, a queen bee could sting you but they rarely do.
The Drone bees in the hive are male and do not have stingers. The only mission of the drones is to mate with new queens. They do no work and do not defend the hive so they do not need a stinger.
The most plentiful and important type of bee in the hive are the worker bees. Worker bees are females that work inside the hive and travel outside to gather food and other resources for the colony.
A worker bee does have a stinger and she will use it to defend herself or her family. The sting (and venom) of the honey bee encourages predators to move away! Away from the beehive.
Why do Bees Sting Their Queen?
The first is that a beekeeper has added a new queen that the bees do not recognize. This is why new queens have to be introduced to a colony slowly. The second reason is that the colony thinks the old queen is failing and they want to remove her and make room for a new queen. Yea, nature is wondrous and sometimes brutal.
How to Avoid Honey Bee Stings
Knowledge is power. A better understanding of bees will help you avoid stings. Honey bees sting when they feel threatened. The painful injection of venom causes a predator to think twice about attacking the bee colony.
You can greatly reduce your chances of getting stung by thorough observation of your environment. Be aware of a bee colony (whether a natural hive in a tree or a man-made box) and stay a respectful distance away.
Sometimes, I can stand very close to the side of my beehive and watch the bees coming to and fro. As long as I am quiet and make no sudden movements, the bees do not resent my presence.
I know it is almost impossible to do but try to resist swinging your arms at the bees (swatting.) Threatened bees are attracted to movement. Swatting will not encourage the bees to settle down.
If bees are taking to much of an interest in you, walk quickly away – try not to run! If the bees follow you, get inside a building or vehicle. A thick stand of trees or bushes may help as well.
Honey Bees May Sting Children at Play
Why do honey bees sting children? Usually it is because the kids get too close to the hive or tease the bees.Teach children that they should never throw stones or sticks at beehives. This activity could result in a strong defensive reaction by the bees.
We don’t want children to be fearful of bees – just respectful. If you are a beekeeper, place your hive well away from human foot traffic. The kids will have a safe place to play and the bees can work as well.
Remember, the honey bee is not out to get you. Stay a respectable distance away, and do not yell or flap your arms. Learn more about honey bee stingers – click here
What to If A Honey Bee Stings You!
If you are near a bee hive and get stung, walk quickly away. When honey bees sting, they release a pheromone that attracts other bees. This is why honeybees sting with such enthusiasm.
Move inside or to a darker place, maybe among trees or bushes to get away from the bees and make it harder for them to find you.
(This advice is for people who are NOT in an area with Africanized bees! Africanized bees are very defensive – run, run and run some more. )
Do you see a stinger in your skin? Ouch! As quickly as possible, use your fingernail to scrape the stinger out. The longer you leave the stinger in – the more poison you will experience.
Do not grab the stinger and pull it out! Grabbing the stinger (and poison sack) will force poison from the poison sack into you!
Home Remedies if You Get Stung By Bees
Are you allergic to bee venom? If you know you are allergic or you experience any systemic symptoms (extreme swelling, trouble breathing, racing heart etc. ) seek medical assistance immediately. Honey bee venom is different from wasp venom. You can be allergic to one but not the other.
For those of us who are not allergic – we can still experience some pain, swelling or heat. And later – itching!
Placing an ice pack on the sting site may help the pain and swelling. Some people rub a small amount of toothpaste on the affected area. And, there are other home remedies in use for bee stings.
Why Honey Bees Sting Even Though They Die
The honey bees is a social insect. Their entire existence is focused on colony survival. They are not normally aggressive but will give their lives for the good of the colony.
The secret to avoiding bee stings is to appreciate the bees. Leave them alone and stay away from their homes. Most bees, including honey bees will leave you alone if you leave them alone.
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