Why do bees have stingers if using it will kill them?

Bees are one of the fascinating creatures we have on the planet. Not only do they provide us with honey, but they also aid in pollinating crops that end up on our tables. They are generally docile but try to disturb them, and they will begin stinging as if saying to leave their colony alone.

However, when a bee stings, it dies a horrific death. Its stinger is designed in a manner that once it pierces through human skin, the bee won’t be able to tug it out without amputating itself. As they attempt to yank their stingers, it severs their lower abdomen. Their stinger is left behind embedded, tugging out their glands, muscles, and venom sacs.

So, if it kills them, why do bees still use them? Let’s cite the famous honeybees.

Truth to be told, it is only the female honeybees, or also regarded as worker bees, that can sting. Their stinger is a modified ovipositor, hollow and pointed, seemingly like a hypodermic needle. It features two rows of what appears like a saw-toothed razor or a surgical knife. These blades protrude outward like a harpoon and are pointed in shape.

Once the bee stings, the two rows of blades scissors into your skin, and functions like a screw anchor. Once the stinger pierces in your flesh, it can no longer retract. That is when the bee releases a cell-destroying toxin to the hole. Moreover, the scent of venom alerts the other worker bees that there is a threat to their hive, which is why worker bees continue to attack the target.

Worker bees, however, are disposable soldiers for the colony. Their responsibility is to collect nectar, pollinate, and defend their hive. After all, they are infertile females, and it is the queen’s function to lay all the eggs while the males fertilize them. In total, a hive has typically 60,000 worker bees, a few hundred males called drones, and a single female queen bee. 

Worker bees also appear to be born already aware of their role, and stinging comes instinctively. Since they are not able to reproduce on their own, they are sacrificing their lives so the queen would live and allow the hive to survive by having new generations.

Bees have a distinct social order. They do not act as a group of individuals working together—instead, their colony functions as a single unit, composed of many small parts.

Also, unlike humans and animals, bees don’t have any motivation to avoid things that might lead to their death. It stems again in the fact that they are not evolutionary units, only the males and the queen are. They do not possess any self-preservation mindset, and they are better off sacrificing their lives to help the colony.

Even if, hypothetically, they are aware that they would die, chances are they would still do the same and won’t act the opposite. There is no innate mindset that death is negative. It is only when natural selection kicks in and tells a living being that death is bad when it starts to act differently.

More Readings:

Bee (Wikipedia)

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