What is the effects of bee sting? This is one of the many questions that arise as a result of a bee sting. It is the worst of feelings as it burns for hours and then swells up leaving a big red swell for days.
As bad as it feels though, it is actually the bee that gets the raw end of this deal because a few minutes after it has stung you, it dies.
Wait, why would an animal have a self-defense mechanism that is more deadly to it than the prey it is attacking. That doesn’t make sense.
Well, there’s actually a lot more to this kamikaze defense mechanism than meets the eye, so put on some thick gloves and get the ice ready because we are about to take a pretty painful look into the secrets of bee stings.
Why Does a Bee Sting Humans?
You might not want to admit it, but if you’ve ever been stung by a bee it was probably your fault.
Sorry to be the bearer of bad news, but in general, these insects only sting humans if we approach their hives, or threaten them with aggressive or reckless behavior.
If a bee is hunting for pollen, they will leave us alone unless we handle them roughly or step on them.
Now you may have heard that all bees die after stinging. Well, actually only the honey bee does!
When any bee stings you, it simply inserts its stinger into your skin. In the case of honeybees, however, their stinger is made of two barbed lancets giving it rougher edges that can act like tiny hooks.
When the honeybee inserts its stinger into the skin, it cannot pull the Stinger back out (that does not stop the honeybee from trying though).
The second they try to take off not only is their stinger pulled out, but the muscles, nerves, and parts of their digestive system attached to it are torn out of their backside as well.
It is a nasty way to go through but there is an even more tragic element to it. When honeybees sting insects as they often do when bugs try to attack the hive, they can remove their stingers just fine.
It is all down to the amount of fiber in the animal’s skin that causes the stinger to lodge.
Those barbed land sets are designed to dig in as deep as possible, and when it comes to a mammal’s fibrous skin there is no removing that stinger without ripping it out.
So the poor honeybees have no idea that when they sting us, the impact will kill them.
Read also: What Does a Bee Look Like? | Facts & Identification
What Is the Effects Of Bee Sting on Human Beings?
Back to us humans, what impact does a bee sting really have on our skin?
Well, bee stings inject a venomous toxin called melatonin which gives the sting its painful effect. If you are allergic to bee stings, it is actually melatonin that you are allergic to.
The toxin causes redness and swelling at the site of the attack. And since bee venom dissolves in water, it is able to spread around the human body with ease.
If you were not aware 60% of the human body is water. So there is a lot of spreading to be done.
Now, if you are ever stung by a honeybee, you must remember to remove the stinger immediately alongside those muscles and nerves.
The pulsating sacks of militant honeybee left behind will continue to pump venom into the skin until they are removed.
So you must pick them out as soon as possible. The longer it is in there, the more militant is injected and the itchy and more swollen the area will get. Now, we have seen how honeybees meet their fate, but why do they decide to sting and how do they deal with dwelling parasites like this.
What Is a Stingless Bee?
Now to anyone terrified of bees, what we are about to say might sound like a joke. A lot of bees are actually unable to sting. All male bees and many female bees from different bee families simply cannot sting.
In fact, the Andrenidae are an entire family of bees whose stingers are so drastically reduced, that they could not sting you if they wanted to.
There is also another group of bees called the meliponines also known literally as stingless bees. These tend to be found in subtropical regions like:
- And parts of Brazil and Mexico.
In fact, most bees in Central and South America are stingless. So if you really, really hate bee stings, now, you know where to head on vacation.
Read also: How to Get Rid of Bees in Walls Without Sprays and Chemicals
How Does a Stingless Bee Defend Itself?
So without a usable stinger, how do stingless bees defend themselves?
Well, like many other insects they bite instead. However, just like their stinging cousins, these bees use their bite to cling onto their enemy to the death either and are just as self-sacrificial as those bees with stingers.
Like regular bees, stingless hives have been known to consist of anywhere between 3,000 to 80,000 workers and only a small number of stingless bee species produce enough honey to be farmed by humans.
But that does not mean we have not found a use for them. Because of their relatively harmless nature, many people, especially in Brazil choose to keep stingless bees as pets.
So, if you are looking for a pet but do not fancy any of the traditional options, a stingless bee colony might be what you are looking for.
It won’t require walking, you wouldn’t have to pick up its poop and you could get a little free honey at the end of it.
How Does a Bee Sting?
Bringing it back to bees that can sting, have you ever wondered how a bee makes the decision to use its stinger? Well, to answer that question we first have to understand pheromones.
A pheromone is a chemical or a mixture of chemicals released by an organism that affects the behavior of other members of the same species.
So it is information communicated mainly by an organism.
The idea that there are chemical messages floating around us all the time may sound a bit crazy, but pheromone signaling like this is essential to a bee’s survival.
For example, a primer pheromone causes long-term changes in the physiology and behavior of a bee. Yes, a chemical signal alone can literally alter a bee’s body during development.
A releaser pheromone on the other hand causes a rapid change in behavior.
So, alarm pheromones which are a type of release pheromones are emitted immediately after a bee stings something.
This alerts other bees to know that a threat is entering the hive, instructing all those that can sense the pheromone to attack the intruder.
But when do they know how to stop? Well, a team of researchers helped answer this question in 2021.
They found that bees base their decisions about whether to sting or not almost solely on the amount of the alarm pheromone in the atmosphere.
In addition to this, they learned that a bee holds to internal thresholds that measure the pheromones level. One that tells them when to begin stinging and one that tells them when to stop almost like an internal thermometer, but for violence.
These pheromones can also help the bees determine the extent of the threat they face. With more pheromones indicating more danger, the bees gout the level of danger via the level of alarm pheromone in the atmosphere.
So the more an intruder is stung, the more bees come to fight it off.
A single colony can consist of more than 100,000 bees. That is one fight you definitely do not want to be on the wrong side of.
Back in 2019, it was estimated that your odds of kicking the bucket because of an allergic reaction to a bee sting was just one in 59507 or 0.00168 percent if you are faced with regular honeybees.
Your odds of surviving dramatically decrease if you are faced with the Africanized bees of North and South America.
These are bees that were taken to Brazil in 1956 by scientists attempting to develop a honeybee better suited to a tropical climate.
The African bees were placed in quarantine, but 26 queens broke out.
The queens then began breeding with Native, Brazilian bees resulting in a species of ultra-aggressive, ultra-lethal mutant bees who have formed hives all across America.
These Africanized bees are very defensive and will fight back with all stingers stinging at even the smallest provocation.
These bees have fatally injured more than 1,000 people with victims found with ten times more stings than European bees.
Not only that, they have been known to chase people for up to a quarter of a mile.
Now, this scarily high death rate is not because Africanized bees have a more venomous sting than others. It is that they attack in huge numbers, with reports of swarms reaching a terrifying, 800,000 bees.
Read also: Do Carpenter Bees Sting?
How Many Bee Stings Can the Average Human Withstand?
The only question now is how many stings a person can withstand before the worst happens.
Well, the average person can tolerate around 10 stings for each pound of their body weight, which means discounting an allergic reaction.
The average adult human can withstand roughly 1,000 stings while a child can only tolerate up to 500. So versus 800,000 angry Africanized bees, less than point 2% of the swarm would be enough to end you.
What is the Difference Between a Bee and a Wasp?
Now we couldn’t talk about bees (nature’s honey givers) without mentioning wasps.
Unlike bees, wasps stingers are not barbed. Meaning they can be used over and over without the risk of the creature dying.
But while their stings might feel the same, wasp stings are actually made up of a completely different set of stalks.
It is one way to measure this is on the pH scale, which ranks a substance from 0 to 14 depending on how acidic it is.
A zero on the pH scale is purely acidic, like battery acid and a 14 is entirely alkaline like drain cleaner. Another example is water is a 7 on the pH scale right in the middle because it is neither acidic nor alkaline and is therefore classed as neutral.
So where do bees and wasps fall into using the pH scale?
A wasp’s sting is between 4 .5 and 5 .5 while a bee’s sting veers toward being slightly acidic with a score of between 6.8 and 6.9.
Wasp stings are ever so slightly more alkaline. That means bee stings are about as acidic as tomato juice and beer while wasp stings are about as alkaline as saliva, milk, and urine.
Given these two comparisons, the pH scale not only demonstrates how different bee and wasp stings are but also why humans have distinct reactions to them.
While there are many similarities in the body’s reaction to toxins, you might be surprised to discover that people who are allergic to bee stings are not necessarily allergic to wasp stings and it is the same the other way around, of course.
What Is the Difference Between a Bee and a Hornet?
Technically, hornets are a specific type of wasp, but they are so much larger than the average wasp they have earned their own classification and reputation.
Hornets are generally a little friendlier than wasps, but when they do get aggressive, their stings are far more painful because their venom contains a high amount of acetylcholine, a powerful pain stimulant. However, they are not immune to pain themselves.
Standard hornets can grow up to two inches in size, which makes them big enough to be infected by the Xenos (tiny parasites that live inside the hornet’s body.
The Xenos parasite causes the hornet to drastically alter its behavior, flying to meet other infected Hornets. The Xenos parasites can make the male parasite-hosting hornet exit its own colony and crawl into a hornet hosting a female parasite. As such Hornets infected with the male parasite will die.
When they are removed, the parasites can look like the most dangerous stingers in the insect kingdom. But mercifully they’re more of a danger to the hornets than they are to humans.
Read also: Do Bees Eat Honey? Research Proves with Facts
What Is an Ovipositor?
Now we have been calling them stingers but the scientific name for the pointy end of a bee is actually the ovipositor and believe it or not their intended more than just to deliver a painful prick.
Ovipositors are used by some female organisms, insects in particular to help maneuver their eggs. As such ovipositors are designed to prepare space for an egg and then transmitted before attaching it to a surface.
So the so-called stingers of bees, as well as wasps, hornets, and ants, are really ovipositors except they have been utilized for another purpose. They are what we call modified ovipositors.
In the case of bee stingers, the ovipositor is modified with the venom glands. Queen bees are the loan reproducers within the colony, and in most cases do not have the same ovipositor as your average worker bee.
The ovipositor on a queen bee is smaller and smoother, making it more adept at laying eggs. At its peak, a healthy queen can lay up to 3,000 eggs a day. But when a queen meets another queen the ovipositor is used as a stinger, and a fight to the death ensues because there can be only one queen.
Worker bees can use their ovipositors for their traditional purpose. If a hive becomes Inglis the pheromones the queen releases to stop ovary development and other female bees are ceased.
This means without the queen, the bee’s bodies develop the organs they need to reproduce. However, if by some freak accident a worker bee tries to lay eggs while the queen is still alive a conflict would ensue as there is room in the hive for one queen bee.
Are Elephants Afraid of Bees?
You may have heard that elephants are hilariously afraid of mice. Well, the jury is still out on whether that is true or not. But there is another animal that definitely haunts an elephant’s nightmares and you can guess which one. Yes, elephants are terrified of bees.
As unbelievable as it sounds, the largest land animal in the world reacts wildly to this tiny insect. You see while human skin is penetrable to bees, the elephant’s skin is too tough to even make a penetration.
What bees can do is attack the more sensitive parts of the elephant, like its trunk, mouth, and eyes in massive swarms causing it great pain. Now elephants are so large that they generally have no natural predators so they are not used to this sort of terrifying invasion so much so that conservationists actually use this fear as a means of protecting the elephants from poachers, farmers, researchers, and advocates.
Farmers border their farms with beehives to keep the elephants off their land and this works in a whopping 80% of cases. There is just one catch, the farmers have to use real bees! Despite their irrational fear elephants have the largest brains of any land animal containing as many neurons as the human brain.
This means they are smart enough to tell the difference between an empty beehive and an active one. In some cases, where just the sound of buzzing bees was played from the hive, the elephants managed to quickly establish that the threat was not real.
Well, who knew there was so much behind one little bee sting. Have you ever been, stung yourself? Or do you have any incredible tales stemming from a single bee sting?
Let us know down in the comments below and if you enjoyed reading this, do well to share it with your friends. Thank you for reading!