Why does a honey bee die after it stings a human being or an animal?

Bees play an essential role in our world, and that is why we consider them the most vital insect on Earth. The great scientist Albert Einstein once said that bees are so crucial to humans that if all of them got removed from the surface of the Earth, then humans only have four years left to live. It is very reasonable speculation since bees are responsible for pollination, and without them, several species of plants would die. Without plants, there would be no animals – which would result in humans dying.

Interestingly, we can see the importance of bees in our world with its various contributions to the wellness of our plants, as well as producing honey and beeswax. Until today, there are several bee farms all around the globe for the manufacturing of the said products – mainly from honey bees.

That is why honey bees are one of the most famous species of bees since they are capable of pollination and producing honey, which humans manufacture in bee farms. Apart from these fascinating works of bees, they are also full of other interesting features.

One popular feature of bees is their ability to sting humans and animals. We all probably heard the saying that when a bee stings a human or even an animal, it will die. 

Does a bee die after stinging a human or an animal?

For starters, not all bees die after using their sting as other people claim, and this feature is only applicable to honey bees.  It is indeed factual that honey bees die after stinging a human or an animal, mainly because of the structure of their sting. 

Unlike other species of bees, the honey bee has barbs opposing the tip of its sting. So if they sting you, the sting apparatus will penetrate the skin, and because of the barbs on the stinger acting as a hook, it will end up getting stuck in the skin – leaving the sting apparatus behind. 

It is not entirely true that stinging a human or an animal will kill the honey bee. Using the sting itself is not the main reason why the bees die. Instead, a more precise reason is that they die because of rupture due to the removal of their sting apparatus. 

Once they sting, it becomes inevitable for them to remove their stingers forcibly when they fly away. It means that their sting apparatus, along with some parts of the abdomen, will be removed from the body. The removal of the stingers and some parts of the abdomen will rupture the lower body of the honey bee, which will result in killing it.

As mentioned earlier, not all bees die after using their sting. Other species of bees, like the bumblebee, have smooth stingers without barbs. Because of this, they can use their sting and live another day.

Why does a honey bee use its sting?

After knowing the reason behind why bees die after stinging, we may come up with the question – why does a honey bee use its sting? 

Upon learning how their stingers work would make us think that every time they use it is a suicide mission since it would most likely end up killing them – so why would they use their stingers in the first place?

Honey bees use their stingers when they feel an incoming threat to their hive or when they feel pain or discomfort – mainly when a person touches them roughly. Although honey bees rarely sting a human. Especially if they are in a far distance from their hive, there is nearly no reason for them to use their stingers. We can say that bees are programmed to protect their colony, not only themselves. Meaning to say, they will sting anyone that is showing a threat to their hive. It is more of a sacrifice for the benefit of the colony.

In cases that bee stings you, it means that you are imposing a threat to their territory, and you should back off. Because unlike wasps and hornets, honey bees are not aggressive stingers since it would kill them after doing so. However, they are ready to be a sacrifice for defending their hive.

Additional reading:
Bee sting (Wikipedia)
Honey bee (Wikipedia)

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