Bees are one of the most important insects for the environment and humans because they are crucial in pollinating many fruits and plants that we usually consume. However, bees are also known for another thing – stinging. So, if we try to balance it out and look at bees through a different lens regarding human hazards. Are bees dangerous to humans?
Bees are generally not dangerous to humans because many species, especially solitary bees, are peaceful insects and will not sting you. On the other hand, the honeybees, which are more likely to sting, would only do so in defense of the hive, the colony, and themselves. So it is important to remember that bees don’t sting for no reason.
However, bee stings can be lethal for people who are highly allergic to bees. There are also bee-related products like bee pollen and even honey that can be dangerous to some people if consumed.
Now, let us learn more about bees and their potential threat to humans.
Looking at the numbers
There are more than 20,000 species of bees worldwide, with more than 4,000 bee species native to the United States . Of those tens of thousands of bee species, more than 80% are solitary bees, which are bees that don’t live in hives or colonies and usually build their nests on the ground .
However, there is a common misconception among people, thinking that all bees are aggressive and live in the hive. In fact, only around 10% of them are social bees or bees that live in colonies, including the bumble bees and the honeybees.
Bees, especially solitary bees, are not defensive and are less likely to sting you. On the other hand, honeybees are more defensive, so they are more likely to sting you if they find you a threat to the colony, the hive, or themselves .
The rate of human fatalities from bee stings is also relatively low. According to CDC, there are only around 70 deaths per year in the U.S. from bee stings since it would require thousands of bees before an average human dies .
Now that we laid the foundation to answer the initial question about the danger of bees to humans let’s proceed.
Are bees dangerous to humans?
Bees are generally not dangerous to humans because most bees are solitary bees and may last their life without ever using their stingers. On the other hand, the more aggressive bees, like the honeybees, will still require more than a thousand stingers before they can adversely affect humans.
According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) – Agricultural Research Service, an average adult human can withstand up to 10 stings per pound of body weight. So, bees are not too dangerous for you unless you’re highly allergic to bee stings.
Also, the risks of getting stung by bees are low when living far from areas with known bee-swarming incidents. So, unless you’re a beekeeper or someone living in places with seasonal swarming, the probability of getting stung to death is close to zero.
However, aside from the stingers, other potential bee-related risks for humans can be consumed. Similar to the ones we already discussed, the risk is often higher for people with bee allergies.
Can bees kill humans?
Though it rarely happens, based on only 70 annual deaths in the U.S. related to bee stings. It is essential to know that it still happens, especially to people highly allergic to bee stings, which can cause swelling and anaphylaxis and may lead to death.
Do bees attack humans for no reason?
Bees are generally peaceful and less likely to attack unless they have done something bees didn’t like. However, they will surely attack you if they perceive you as a threat. Some of the reasons bees attack are entering their territory, wearing dark-colored clothing, and even accidentally disturbing the hive.
What are bee-related products/instances that are potentially dangerous to humans?
Bees stings are not the only reason for bee allergies to be cautious. There are also other bee-related products that these people can consume without knowing their potential danger.
1. Bee Pollen
There has been an increased emphasis on the effect of bee pollen on humans, like vitamins, minerals, carbohydrates, proteins, and others. It has also grown in popularity through supplements and skin products recently. However, it is still debatable whether the claims for bee pollen are valid .
So, taking it if you have a severe allergic reaction to pollen is not advisable because it may cause itching, shortness of breath, swelling, and anaphylaxis.
Bee pollen is also not recommended for pregnant women, nursing women, and young children.
Honey is one of the most popular products derived from bees. It is also a staple product for most homes . However, it may still pose some danger to humans under certain conditions.
For instance, bees can get intoxicated by being exposed to fermented nectar or fruits they make into honey. However, honey derived from toxic nectar can be poisonous for human consumption .
Another instance of honey being dangerous to humans, especially pregnant women and young children, is a disease called infant botulism, which is associated with honey consumption by very young children.
In effect, the CDC advised pregnant women and children under 12 months old must be cautious about eating honey. This is due to the potential risk of contamination from C. botulinum spores in honey, leading to the disease.
3. Accidental Bee Ingestion
It is incredibly rare for people to accidentally ingest bee in their food, but it still happens. The effect can also pose a similar threat to the more susceptible people who are allergic to bees. However, for the general population, this incident may still cause some effects like swelling but nothing life-threatening .
What should you do to avoid bee-related hazards?
Unless you’re a beekeeper, the risk for bee-related hazards is very low. However, there will still be instances when you’ll face similar problems. So it would still help to know what to do to decrease the risks.
1. Don’t go closer to a beehive.
Social bees, especially the Africanized honeybees, are highly territorial. This means they can be aggressive when they find someone or something threatening to their hives. So, it is best not to go as close to a beehive as possible.
Also, don’t even try to throw anything at the bees because you will only provoke them into aggression – you don’t want that. So, if you find some bees going your way, running away as far as possible would be best to avoid getting stung.
2. Avoid sweet-smelling perfume and scents.
Bees like sweet scents. So sweet perfumes, colognes, and deodorants are attractive to bees, so it is best to avoid using them when walking in places that are likely to have a bee habitat.
3. Avoid drinking sweet drinks when close to bee habitats.
Soft drinks and other sweet beverages mimicking nectar are attractive to bees. So, you must avoid drinking them when bees are likely foraging in the spring and summer.
4. Wear light-colored clothing.
It would be best to avoid attractive and aggression-inducing colors for bees. You should avoid the bright colors that are attractive to bees and the darker colors that can cause aggression to them.
Bees are not generally dangerous to humans. In fact, it is the other way around. Humans are dangerous to bees because how humans are driving many species of bees to the brink of extinction.
Since most bees are solitary and not aggressive, the risk of getting stung by bees is lower. However, honeybees are more likely to sting you if they consider you a threat to their colony.
Though bees are generally not dangerous to humans, some people with bee-related allergies are the ones who are at high risk for death.
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