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Bee Stings

October 13, 2009

A listener asks: Do honeybees really die after they sting you?


The sting of death…I’m Bob Hirshon and this is Science Update.

Listener John of Washington, D.C. has always heard that honeybees die after they sting you. But it sounds like kind of a raw deal for the bees, and he wonders if it’s really true. We consulted bee expert Greg Hunt of Purdue University.

GREG HUNT (Purdue University):
When honeybees sting you they do die. The stinger has barbs on it and // gets torn out of their body and takes a little part of their guts with them and so eventually they die within a few hours.

But he says one individual honeybee isn’t all that important to the overall colony. On the other hand, honeybee queens aren’t expendable. But their stingers don’t have barbs, so they can sting repeatedly without hurting themselves. Fortunately, they don’t sting humans. But similar-looking yellowjacket wasps do, and their stingers don’t have barbs either, which means they can sting you repeatedly. I’m Bob Horshon, for AAAS, the science society.