Can bees sting other bees?

Bees can sting and will definitely sting you if you’re not careful around their hives. One of the more common bees that are known, not just for their sweet honey but also for their stings, are the honeybees. They live in a colony of thousands of bees, including a single queen bee, male drone bees, and female worker bees.

Since honeybees live with thousands of stinger-wielders, can bees also sting other bees? 

Bees will sting other bees for various reasons. It can be against an intruder, against another member of the hive, queen bees attacking another queen bee, or even accidentally attacking another hive when they are robbing them of their honey, or it can be simply accidentally stinging another member of their colony.

Now let us learn more about the bees stinging other bees and why they do it.

Can bees sting other bees?

bees landing on a beehive

Female bees and the queen bee are the only bees with stingers in the hive. They usually use them to defend the hive or themselves. Honeybees are also the only bee specie among the thousands killed when they sting.

However, there are also some instances when bees will sting other bees. It can be because they need to defend their colony against other bees from another hive. Other times, they will be the aggressor and try to invade other territories. It can even be within the same colony fighting amongst themselves.

When bees sting other bees, it can be against the same specie or against other species. If this happens to honeybees and they sting other bees, there will be a lot of dead bees because both the stinger and the stung will die. Remember that honeybees have barbed stingers that are lodged in the victim after the sting [2].

To learn more about bees, you should also read Are bees afraid of water? and Do bees eat apples?

Why do bees sting other bees?

There are several reasons why bees will sting another bee. Here are some.

1. Queen bee battle royale

There can only be one queen bee in the hive. So, if more than one virgin queen bee developed in their queen cup, there would surely be death by stinging. 

The first virgin queen bee that emerges from its queen cell will make sure that she is the only queen in the hive. She will locate each queen cell with a larva in it and will open it by biting the wax layer and kill the unsuccessful queen bee by stinging [3].

This virgin queen bee will find every queen bee in the hive and ensure she is the only one left. She can continue to use her stingers because, unlike the female worker bees, the queen bee has a smoother stinger she can pull out instead of a barbed stinger.

2. Intruding other hives

During the difficult times of the hive, there are fewer flowers to forage and less pollen and nectar for the worker bees to collect. When this happens, the supply of honey in the hive will start to diminish, and some bee colonies will have no other choice but to trespass other colonies to rob them of their honey [4].

The bees that will initiate the robbing behavior (called robber bees or robbers) are commonly the older worker bees that are supposed to be foraging but cannot locate viable and sufficient food sources.

When robbing occurs, the intruders will try to enter another hive through different entrances, and fighting, stinging, and biting will happen. The robbing can occur in the course of hours or days. 

When the robbing ends, the robbed colony can even lose all of its resources to the robbers, which will also spell their colony’s death.

3. Defending bees from other bee intruders

bees landing on a beehive

Bees will always defend their hives even if they are weaker than the attacking bee colony trying to steal their precious honey. 

The weaker colonies are more likely to be robbed because they will have difficulties defending their hives from invading bees. It is also quite common during this time when bees are robbing another colony that they leave their own colony defenseless and are also robbed.

4. Bees reject a new queen bee

When a queen bee dies, is lost, or has swarmed out of the hive, the hive is in a critical state and needs to have a replacement queen immediately. Beekeepers would normally try to introduce a new queen to the hive. 

However, there are occasions when the older worker bees will not recognize the new queen bee and perceive her as a threat. The workers will kill the queen by stinging or balling when that happens.

5. Accidentally stinging a nestmate

Stinging is one way for bees to protect their nest and the colony against intruders and predators. However, during an experiment, scientists found that while defending their nest, some bees could not tell their friends and foes apart, stinging their fellow nestmates [1].

Also read: Do bumble bees die after they sting? and Can bees sting through bee suit?


Honeybees usually reserve their stingers when protecting their colony against predators because they know their sting is only good for one shot. However, there are also times when they will use their stingers on other bees. 

Bees will use their stingers when defending their colony against intruding robber bees which happens when the flowers are limited for all the bees to forage and collect nectar and pollen to produce honey. 

On the other hand, queen bees will try to kill each other in their quest for dominance in the hive. However, suppose there is currently no queen in the hive, and a beekeeper attempts to replace it. In that case, the older worker bees can kill the replacement.

Lastly, the funny thing about bees is that they can also accidentally sting another hive member.


[1] – Says:, I. A., says:, V. S., says:, R. B., says:, E. Q., says:, B. O., says:, R. C., & says:, A. N. (n.d.). This Week. This Week At Macquarie University. Retrieved September 27, 2022, from

[2] – Bee sting. (2022, August 12). In Wikipedia.

[3] – Queen bee. (2022, July 22). In Wikipedia.

[4] – Robbing Behavior in Honey Bees. University of Florida, Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences. (n.d.). Retrieved September 27, 2022, from