Our first grade class is studying about living things and we had a question for the biologists on your site.

Why do bees die after they sting only once?  Do all bees do this?

Thank you,

Grade 1C, Munich International School

Hello Miss Bullock, I hope we can help.

Honeybees have barbed stings unlike wasps and other bees, which have smooth ones. This means that the sting gets stuck in the skin of birds or mammals (it will pull free of the chiton of other insects) and once stuck the stinger tears loose from the bee's abdomen, resulting in death of the bee. Venom will continue to be pumped from a poison sac, through the sting, even once the bee has flown off and died.

This self-sacrificial behaviour probably evolved to defend the hive (with its honey) from attacks by large mammals and birds. Although the individual bee dies, it has a much greater impact on the threat than it could do if its sting was smooth.

Last edited by Paolo Viscardi (27th Jun 2007 14:33:26)