A Honeybee Never Wants to Sting You
Bee and human are like David and Goliath. In the bible story of David and Goliath, a little underdog boy challenges and overcomes a big mean giant. Children wonder how a young boy had the courage to challenge a giant and win.
Size-wise, bees are David and humans are Goliath. People appear huge to tiny bees. But usually, it is the big human that is terrified of the tiny bee. Not the tiny bee that is afraid of the human. Bees are busy going about their business.
Why are people so scared of such small creatures? Bee stings.
What do bees fear about humans? On a personal scale, they worry that you will harm their family and hive. Collectively, they worry that humans are destroying the environment that they depend on to live. But that's a theme for another day.
In reality, honeybees do not want to sting people. They have a great reason for not wanting to sting. A honeybee can only sting once. They know that they will lose their stinger and usually die when they sting.
This 4:19-minute video by Arvin Pierce examines the question of whether bees die when they sting you:
Bees are not interested in stinging humans, with the except of some highly aggressive bees called Africanized Bees, known as ‘killer bees’ in popular culture. Africanized bees do not have more toxic venom than honeybees. They attack in a swarm, so the recipient may get hundreds or even thousands of stings.
So, if you are in your garden and get stung by a lone bee, keep in mind that other bees like bumblebees and native bees, and yellow jackets and wasps, can sting multiple times because they do not have barbed stingers so the action of retracting their stinger does not kill them.
The part of the honeybee that breaks off, the stinger mechanism, remains in your skin. It is made of venom, stinger and muscles that keep it pumping. The fatally wounded worker bee also releases pheromones that raise an alarm with her sister honeybees to be aware that something is up. This means you may find other honeybees suddenly aggressively confronting you in stinging mode.
Honeybees are normally non-aggressive and only interested in gathering nectar and pollen to bring home to the hive. They are busy, have a plan and want to take care of their family and colony. They are known to sting someone if they suddenly decide the person is a potential predator or threat.
If you come between a bee and her hive, if you get too close to the hive, if you are afraid and start swatting at bees and making scared moves that feel aggressive to a bee, and sometimes if you are too loud, all these things can ignite a bee’s decision to sting you.
For the best chance of not being stung, always approach bees and their hives with respect. Move slowly, without fast or jerky movements. Be conscious of where the hive entrance is, and do not stand in front of it. Do not taunt bees or make aggressive hand gestures or swat at them. Running around near the hive is not the best idea, as it can agitate bees. In other words, be respectful of bees and their home when you are near their space.
Back to David and Goliath... that's where the similarities end. David's courage leads him to becoming King one day. The little honeybee, knowing she will die, decides to sting you anyway because she fears for her mom, sisters and home. She makes the ultimate sacrifice to stop you and save those she loves. She is a noble little honeybee.
Please do yourself and honeybees a favor. Treat them with respect and keep your distance so they do not have to choose whether or not to sting you. Teach children and other adults how to behave near a hive.
Life is so much better for humans and honeybees when there is no fear in the equation. Only love, respect, giving and receiving. That same little worker bee and her family are responsible for pollinating the fresh food you buy at the market… the food that nourishes you and your family, and the honey that sweetens your life.
We need bees more than they need us.
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