Can a Worker Bee Sting?

You are strolling around your garden, minding your own business, when suddenly—BAM! You get stung by a bee. You yelp and swat at the little jerk of an insect. And then you wonder: Can worker bees sting?

Worker bees can sting differently in the presence of a threat! They have stingers on their abdomens for that very reason. The question is not whether bees sting, but rather why they do so under certain circumstances.

Let us explore this question even more and solve the mystery behind worker bee stinging.

Do worker bees sting?

If you’re not a beekeeper, you probably don’t know much about worker bees. Worker bees are female bees that do all the work in a colony. They make honey, feed the larvae and care for the queen. They also serve as guards for the hive by doing things like defending it from predators or other intruders.

Do worker bees have stingers? The answer is no! Worker bees are sterile females; they cannot produce eggs, so they don’t have any stingers or ovaries to store them in (if they did have stingers, there would be no need for males). 

But don’t let this fool you into thinking that worker bees aren’t dangerous: they do possess an extremely sharp barbed tongue on their abdomen called an “osmeterium.” This little appendage enables them to stick their tongues out of their bodies and scrape pollen off flowers when collecting nectar or honeydew (a sweet substance secreted by aphids).

Can queen bees sting?

Now that we’ve answered how worker bees defend themselves, how about queen bees?

First, let’s investigate the subject of whether or not queen bees have stingers. The answer to this question is yes, however it is quite unlikely that they would do so unless they are first provoked. If you ever find yourself in the presence of a queen bee, you should resist the urge to stroke or pick her up in any way.

She’s more likely than worker bees to sting if she feels threatened. You should also be aware that queen bees have barbed stingers, which means that in addition to delivering venom all over your flesh and causing pain and swelling, they’ll stay lodged in there until someone pulls them out (usually by cutting off the stinger).

The queen bee will only use these weapons when she feels like defending herself or her colony against an attacker—and even then, it won’t be a defensive action; it will most likely be an offensive one.

When do worker bees sting?

Worker bees are not aggressive, so it’s important not to provoke them. If you’re ever stung by a worker bee, take note of the location of your sting. Worker bees will only sting if they feel their hive is in danger—so don’t threaten them!

If you’re stung, try to remember as many details about the incident as possible. The location of your sting (is it on an arm or leg? Is there any swelling? ), the color of your skin (do you have freckles?) and whether or not you were wearing perfume (which can attract bees) can all aid in diagnosis.

Do worker bees only sting once?

Worker bees do not have a stinger. Worker bees are female and have a barbed sting, but they only use it once, because the stinger is torn out of their bodies when they sting you. They cannot sting again because they will die if they don’t have more than one stinger.

The only times that worker bees are able to sting are when it is warm outdoors or when they are inside and the lights are turned on (since heat makes them hot).

If worker bees were to sting you, it’s likely that they wouldn’t survive the experience. Because they only have one stinger, they can’t give a second sting and will die if they try.

Here’s what to do if you get stung by a bee:

  • Remove the stinger as soon as possible. If you leave it on your skin, the venom will continue to pump into your body and make you feel worse. You can use tweezers to pull off the stinger (and any stray hairs or other tiny bits of bee). 
  • Wash the area with soap and water afterward, or wipe it clean with rubbing alcohol (this kills any remaining bits of bee). Do not urinate on yourself!
  • If you got stung more than once or if someone else was stung near you, go see a doctor as soon as possible so they can tell if there are any allergic reactions going on; if so, they’ll give you an epinephrine shot immediately for prevention purposes. 
  • Your doctor might also prescribe an antihistamine for later use; these come in pill form and are easy-to-swallow capsules that work quickly without side effects like dry mouth or constipation like some other medications might have (like Benadryl*). 

*They’re especially helpful if someone is allergic but won’t have access to medical care right away—like during an outdoor activity where there aren’t many hospitals nearby—or when someone needs immediate relief from symptoms that could be dangerous otherwise, such as swelling around their eyes, which could cause blindness if left untreated long enough.


So, can worker bees sting you? Absolutely. Honey bee colonies include stinging insects that include both worker bees and the queen bee. Honey bees live in groups, and their hives are set up with a caste system. The queen bee, also known as the alpha male, is at the top of the hierarchy, followed by the drones and the worker bees. 

Even though the queen bee has a rather smooth stinger, she utilizes it almost exclusively to defend herself against other queen bees. Worker bees are equipped with barbets on their stingers, which they employ to protect the hive. All worker bees are infertile females. Their stingers are an evolutionary adaption of their ovipositors, which aren’t utilized since they don’t lay eggs, so they don’t have to worry about losing them.