Updated: 3rd May 2021
Do all bees die if they sting you?
The short answer is:
No, of the bees capable of stinging, only honey bees die after stinging, due to the sting becoming lodged into human skin, thus injuring the bee as it tries to fly away. Other species, such as bumble bees, can sting repeatedly without dying. However, it should be noted that not all bees sting. Male bees across species, cannot sting.
The reason honey bees die after they have stung a human is because the honey bee possesses a barbed stinger (it’s actually a modified ovipositor).
Whilst honey bees could sting other insect species and survive (for example, during the defense of their nest and honey combs), the barbed stinger cannot cope with fleshy human skin.
If the honey bee stings a human, the sting itself will get lodged in the skin. As the bee attempts to pull itself away, this will unfortunately tear away its abdomen, leaving the stinger behind and lodged in the skin.
Anyone who is stung will then need to take action to remove the stinger, as it will otherwise continue to pump poison (venom) – see advice on treating bee stings.
Solitary bees rarely ever sting, and bumble bees generally are rather docile. However, I always recommend caution and respect around bumble bees.
In addition, I hear of many well intentioned efforts to 'rescue' bumble bees after finding them actually resulting in a stinging incident because of well-intentioned mis-handling.
There are times when your intervention can help a
bumble bee in difficulty, and there are times when it is best to leave
them alone. See my page about rescuing bees trapped in spider webs.
In bumble bees, the stinger is smooth. This means that if you are stung by a bumble bee, the stinger will not become stuck in your skin, and so the bee will not die.
However, whichever the species, stings can be more dangerous if they occur around the throat, eyes, nasal passages or inside the ear - especially in children.
Some people have very severe (and rarely, very serious) allergies to bee stings (and wasp stings). Where there is a risk of very serious reaction (such as anaphylactic shock), an Epi-pen should be carried.
For further information, see my page 'Do Bumble Bees Bite'.
Some bee species are known to use their mandibles in a biting action, for example, whilst they are constructing their nests (widening nest entrances, biting materials).
However, bees do not bite humans. If you are concerned about stings, it is far better to use products which repel, rather than kill insects.
You could also try a deet- free insect repellent spray.
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