For many of us, bees are just a nuisance. They buzz around in the garden and occasionally buzz into our homes or cars. But to beekeepers, they’re an essential part of the ecosystem. No matter what their use case is, these little creatures are still known for their painful stings
You might be surprised to learn that while some bees can sting only once, others can sting multiple times! Bees have two types of stingers: barbed stingers and smooth stingers. Honeybees have barbed stingers (therefore only able to take one shot), wasps and hornets have smooth ones (meaning they can keep going back for more).
So how does this affect you when dealing with bees? Read on for an explanation!
Two main types of bee stingers
Bees have two types of stingers: barbed stingers and smooth stingers.
Honeybees have barbed stingers. Although it’s very painful, the barbs on their stinger help to protect them from predators while they try to escape. The bee only uses its stinger once and then dies after one use because it’s attached to a venom sac that empties into the wound when it gets stuck in your skin or clothing.
Bee species such as the wasp, hornet, and yellow jacket all have stingers that are smooth. Because they do not get entangled in whatever it is that they are attempting to protect themselves against, they may reuse theirs over and over again.
Honeybees and their barbed stingers
You’ve probably heard that honeybees can sting you multiple times, but the truth is that once a honeybee stings, it dies.
The reason for this is because honeybee stings have barbed tips that stay in your skin as the bee flies away. If a bee tries to sting again with its dead body still stuck in your skin, it just rips out more of its abdomen and damages itself even more—and then dies anyway.
The term “sting” is actually something of a misnomer when talking about bees. Only one species of bee uses its stinger to deliver venom: human beings who are allergic to bee venom may experience pain from their reaction and some swelling around the site where they were stung. For most people, however, being stung by one will cause nothing more than localized discomfort lasting less than an hour.
Wasps, hornets, and yellow jackets and their smooth stingers
Because a bee’s stinger is barbed, it can only retract when the bee pulls in the other direction. The stinger of a wasp or hornet, on the other hand, is smooth and may be readily retracted or extended in any position.
When stung several times, bees of this species do not sustain internal damage because they do not have barbs to keep their stingers in place. This allows them to be more aggressive. They are not going to be terminally hurt by their own poisonous strikes; instead, after inflicting one last terrible stab on their adversaries, they just continue about their day as normal.
The single-use stinger of honeybees and their inevitable demise
The honeybee’s stinger is barbed, which means that it has sharp points that help the bee cling to its victim during stinging. The barbs on the stinger stay stuck in your skin or clothing after the bee has flown away, and cause the bee to die after stinging you. This is why you may see a dead bee (or two) hanging from your arm after being stung by one!
The honeybee can only sting you once because the barbs on its stinger mean that when it stings you, it gets stuck to your skin. It cannot fly away without pulling itself off of its own body! This means that a bee can only sting you once before dying, so there is no need to worry about being stung over and over again by one little insect.
Species as a factor of bee stingers
Smooth-stinger bees, such as bumblebees and carpenter bees, have a long stinger that can only sting once. However, they have a very small amount of venom compared to other types of bees. If you are stung by a smooth-stinger bee more than once, it’s likely because the bee has been captured and mishandled by an insect collector or veterinarian (because these types of bees would not normally sting).
The amount of times that honeybees can sting depends on their species. Some honeybees like bumblebees only have one stinger and cannot replace it if lost; others like honeybees have two stingers which means they can use them over again if needed. The average number of times most honeybee species will use their stingers is two or three times before dying from their injuries!
Other bee species that can sting multiple times
While it is true that most bees can only sting once in their lifetime, a few select species of bees are able to use their stingers more than once. These include the honeybee and Africanized honeybees (also known as killer bees), which have been known to use their stinger for multiple defensive actions.
In fact, there are reports of some Africanized bees stinging people up to five times during the same incident! The reason for this ability is simple: unlike many other insects, worker honeybees live long enough to be effective defenders of the colony throughout their entire life cycle.
This means that they don’t need to conserve their energy by not using their stinger after they’ve used it once. In addition, they can also leave behind pheromones (chemicals) on whoever they’ve just stung as well as pump venom into them through repeated jabs with their pointed jaws and sharp mandibles (mouth parts).
In conclusion, we’ve learned that bees *at least some specific species) can sting more than once. This is only true for honeybees, though, and only if they have enough energy to do so. In most cases, it would be best to avoid bees altogether since their stings are very painful and dangerous for people who are allergic to them.