Can a dead bee sting you?

If you’ve read enough sites and documents about bees, you will know that not all bees sting [1]. In fact, only the female bees have stingers attached to their rear. The more common bees that stings are the honeybees, bumble bees, and carpenter bees. So, for the stinging bees, it can be curious to know if they can still sting long after they are dead [2].

Bees can still sting you even after they die, as long as they have stingers. Their stingers can still pump out the venom even if their upper body is completely removed. After all, the bee sting can still work since it is decentralized from the bee’s nervous system. Even detached bee stingers can sting you if you’re not careful.

bees landing on a piece of cloth

Let us learn more about how bee stingers work and how they still manage to sting even after the bee dies.

How do bees sting?

Bee stingers are attached to their abdomen [4], which they use as a defensive mechanism to protect their hives and their own, especially the Africanized honey bees, also known as killer bees [3]

It is also important to reiterate that only female bees have stingers that they can use. In contrast, the male bees are basically useless in defending the hive.

The types of bees also will vary in how they will sting you if they are alive and how they may possibly sting you even if they are dead.

Honeybees are the only type of bees that dies after they sting because their stingers are barbed in design. In effect, once they sting something, it will be locked to the victim. They will pull their stingers as hard as possible, blowing their abdomen, eventually killing them.

On the other hand, most stinging bees have a smooth stinger that they can repeatedly use if needed, like the bumble bees and other solitary bees. However, these bees are less likely to use stings because they are not as aggressive as honey bees.

However, it is essential to know that while bees, especially the honeybees, sting you if you’re not careful, they can still be as dangerous after they die.

Can a dead bee still sting you?

Now that we know how alive bees sting, we can fully understand how they can still sting after they die. Dead bees that didn’t die after stinging (honeybees) still have their stingers attached to their abdomen, with the venom sac intact.

So, suppose you accidentally swat, hold, press down, or step on a dead bee’s stinger. In that case, your weight will force the stinger onto your skin and will inject the venom into your body, which is similar to having been stung.

How do bees die?

We already know that only the honeybees die after they sting because their abdomen ruptures, leaving the stinger, venom sac, and some parts of the abdomen. 

However, If we think about it, bees live a relatively short lifespan, so there are other ways they can be found dead from six to twenty-eight weeks for worker honeybees, two to six weeks for worker bumble bees, and up to one year for worker carpenter bees [5].

Here are some other ways bees can die naturally or unnaturally, leaving their stingers available to still sting after they die [6].

1. Normal life cycle

As mentioned, different bee species have different life spans. So, bees can basically fall lifeless on the ground while foraging, while some bees will die in their nest. When this happens, these dead bees can be reachable to people and can still sting.

2. Extreme Cold Weather 

Bees are not as tolerable to extremely cold weather, so if they are outside the nest foraging, this can freeze and kill bees. So, if you find bees lying on the ground, it would be best not to hold them.

3. Predation from birds and other animals

There are many natural predators of bees, and some of these bee-eaters don’t eat the whole bees, leaving the stinger on the ground, which can still sting even if it is unattached to the bee’s head.

4. Alcohol poisoning

Bees can also die from drunkenness and intoxication after collecting fermented nectar, especially during the hotter season. If this happens and you see honeybees lying on the ground, it would be best to leave them alone and avoid touching them [7].

5. Pesticides

The decline of the overall bee population in the United States is attributed to the use of pesticides that are toxic and lethal for all bees [8]. This can even cause thousands of bees to die off. Even if they are dead, these dead bees still have venomous stingers attached to them that are best avoided.

How can a dead bee still sting?

There are several bee-eating birds in the United States, which includes the California scrub jay. These birds eat different animals and insects, including honeybees. When eating honey bees, scrub jays usually remove the abdomen where the stinger is attached and eat the rest of the body, avoiding the danger of getting stung by a dead bee [2].

However, these birds would also conveniently leave the removed bee abdomen with its stinger still intact on the wayside, which can be hazardous for humans. People can step on it or accidentally hold on to the stinger that will deliver the venom to the unfortunate victim.

It can also be normal for children playing in the yard to find dead bees and play with them, which they can hold, step on, or sit on that may release the venom.

Which types of bees can still sting you even when they are already dead?

The rule of thumb is to avoid dead bees if you don’t need to clean them to prevent unnecessary stinging incidents. However, it is also good to know that only female bees can sting and that the male bees don’t even have stingers.

All types of bees with stingers, primarily females, can still sting you even if they are dead, but the amount of venom can vary. One of the most dangerous is the Africanized honeybees. 

However, the bumble bees, carpenter bees, and mason bees, only female, of course, can still sting you and deliver venom even if they are dead.

What to do when dealing with a dead bee?

When you find a dead bee lying on the ground or in your house, it would be advisable to avoid holding it with your bare hands or try to handle it from its upper body, away from the stinger. Just discard it using a broom and dustpan.

What to do when you are accidentally stung by a dead bee?

If you accidentally get stung by a dead bee, here are the things you need to do according to the American Academy of Dermatologists Association [9].

1. Stay Calm

Since you are stung by a dead bee, there is no reason to panic and anticipate further attacks from swarming bees.

2. Remove the stinger immediately

It is important to immediately remove the stinger from your skin, which can usually be removed with your fingernails. Prolonging the stay of the stinger on your skin will allow more venom to penetrate your body, worsening the situation.

3. Wash with soap and water.

It is also important to immediately wash it with soap and water to eliminate other bacteria from entering the wound.

4. Apply a cold pack to reduce swelling.

After washing, placing a cold pack will help the swelling caused by the venom to reduce. It can also provide some relief from the pain. However, if you accidentally got stung by a dead bee near your face, neck, or throat, you may need to be brought to the emergency room.

5. Use over-the-counter medication if needed.

Some stings can still be painful even if they are dead, so for some people, painkillers can offer the relief they need.

6. Seek medical assistance immediately if it causes a severe reaction.

Though only a tiny percent of Americans experience a severe reaction from bee stings, it is always best to be on the safe side. So, if there are allergic reactions and symptoms, bring them to the emergency room and seek immediate medical assistance.


Bees can still be dangerous even if dead because of the stingers attached to their bodies. Even if their abdomen is completely decapitated and removed from its upper body, as long as the venom sac is intact, it is still a perceived hazard.

The best way to handle dead bees is to not use your bare hands when collecting or holding them. To avoid getting stung, it is also wise to not go bare-footed in the yard, or sit or lie on the grass, especially during the bee season.

However, if you accidentally get stung by a dead bee, remove it immediately, wash with soap and water, apply cold packs, or call the doctor if necessary.


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