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Does a Honey Bee Know It Is Going To Die if It Stings You?

Does a Honey Bee Know It Is Going To Die if It Stings You?

Honey bees are one of the most important insects in the animal kingdom. They are responsible for pollinating most of the world’s vegetation which keeps the world blooming and all of us fed (my pre-teen son definitely sees this as their most important job). The honey bee goes out in search of nectar to bring back to the hive (If you haven’t heard about their waggle dance, check it out). This process ends up pollinating other flowers and plants as a byproduct. On many occasions, we can think of a time where we, a family member, or a friend received a painful sting from one of these insects. We have also heard that when a bee stings you it usually dies. This leave’s the question “does a honey bee knowingly sacrifice itself to sting a human?”

A Honey Bees Stinger

bee stinger

A worker honey bee has a barbed stinger. It is useful for fending off predators and other smaller organisms. It is a hollow needle that it uses to inject venom into its target. The chemical it injects is a toxin that is meant to break down cell membrane and cause pain, anti-inflammatories to stop blood flow, histamines that can invoke an allergic reaction, and pheromones to signal other bees to attack. That is quite an impressive chemical development!

So, Does a Bee Know It Is Going To Die or Not?

Honey bee’s likely do not know when they sting a human that is going to be the end of their days. The one thing it doesn’t take into account in the case with humans and other mammals is our skin. (I guess they need a human biology 101 course for worker bees before sending them off hunting nectar.) Humans and other mammals have such thick skin their death is related to not being able to get their barbed stinger out without disembowelment. Their stinger design is a defense mechanism against other predatory insects, not thick-skinned humans.

The Verdict

Though we have probably all been stung by a bee at some point in time, honey bees are purely defensive creatures. Regardless of how malicious they seem in the moment of their defense, that is just our misperception. They don’t go out of the way like their cousin the wasp to harm humans. Honey bees are very important to our ecosystem and as such we should do everything we can to not disturb them.