Honeybees 1, 2

Commercially produced bee products

Why a honeybee dies after it stings us

When a honeybee stings a mammal the bee dies because its sting stays in the mammal's skin and pulls out the poison sac and some of the abdominal contents. This is because the sting is barbed at the end, and mammal skin is stretchy. If the bee were to sting another insect it could easily pull out its sting as the insect is covered with brittle chitin.

The muscles attached to the poison sac continue to pump even though they are no longer attached to the bee, so it is important to scrape off or pull out the sting as quickly as possible. There is also an alarm pheromone released with the sting, and this recruits more bees to come and investigate/attack.

A typical honeybee will inject 5 - 50 micrograms of venom. Unless a person is allergic, the sting will just cause some pain and a little swelling. However 10 stings will cause an adult human to feel ill. Over 50 stings requires immediate medical help, and 300 can be fatal.

The only time a honey bee queen uses her sting is when she kills rival queens in the hive.

Honeybee swarming

Swarming is most common in spring and early summer. The old queen and about half of the bees leave the nest to form a new colony. A newly hatched queen will take over the existing hive and remaining bees. The swarming colony may rest temporarily in "unsuitable places" causing some alarm in the human population.

Local beekeepers will soon capture the swarming colony and re house it in a suitable hive. This is the natural way of increasing their stock. During swarming the bees are at their most docile. It is during this phase that it is possible to photograph a person covered in bees.

Differences between bumblebees and honey bees

There are some very important differences between the bumblebee life cycle and the honeybee life cycle.

Varroa destructor

Varroa destructor is a mite that parasitizes honey bees leading to loss of honey and wax, as well as poor pollination of crops.

It was first identified in 1951 in Singapore, and has spread worldwide because of the movement of infected colonies, and the importation of infected queens. Beekeepers aim to "control" Varroa as the cannot eradicate it.

The Beehive Inn, Eamont Bridge

In this hive we are all alive
Good liquor makes us funny
If you be dry step in and try
The virtue of our honey.


When Mrs. Gorm (Aunt Eloise)
Was stung to death by savage bees,
Her husband (Prebendary Gorm)
Put on his veil, and took the swarm.
He's publishing a book next May
On, "How to make bee-keeping pay."
Harry Graham

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