THE MYSTERY OF THE STING

Today I am going to lay to rest the mystery surrounding the bee’s sting. I have often wondered why people are still so ashamedly scared of the tiniest of creatures whose only crime was that it was trying to protect itself from a far greater and true predator, the human being. Today I also affirm that, in any case, the human being is the most dangerous creature on earth, capable of wreaking havoc of apocalyptic proportions and capable of decimating the bee’s ecosystems as it already is. And yet an innocent child will run a mile from a black and yellow striped bee, thanks to the indoctrination and false fallacies fed to it by its mother and father.

THE GRUESOME DEATH

Those of you still fairly new to beekeeping may still have recollections of a painful sting or two from a honeybee or two in your garden. The bee was never chasing you. It was simply an accident. You got in its way and it had no alternative but to sting you, not so much to protect itself – it was going to die anyway – but to protect its hive and the lives of thousands of other worker bees, drones and the queen. You got a scrape and a slight burn, nothing more. But the poor creature died. Due to the structure of its anatomy, this could not be helped.

So, this dispels some of the mystery behind the honeybee’s sting. It never died deliberately. It never willingly sacrificed its life on behalf of its brothers, sisters and mother. It was not deranged like a kamikaze pilot or suicide bomber. Once the bee stung you, the poor creature could not pull its stinger out from your skin. As it tried to do this, it damaged its lower abdomen. Instead of pulling out the stinger, it yanked out all of its digestive materials, muscles, glands and its venom sac. How could it possibly survive after such trauma?

One blogger on bees described this tragic death as the slow bleeding to death that some unfortunate humans have experienced.

But even after the poor bee has long been discarded and died, its poisoning work continues. A cluster of its nerve cells strengthens the stinger. Barbed shafts rub backwards and forwards, digging deeper into your skin. Muscular valves pump poison from the venom sac into your wound for at least a few minutes. This, really, is why it hurts so much. All you can do to protect yourself, really, is to flick the stinger off of your skin as quickly as possible.

But it still hurts me more that the poor bee is dead.

ANATOMY OF THE STINGER

The bee’s stinger is pointed and hollow, pretty much like a hypodermic needle. There are two rows of lancets or blades. The blades are barbed in shape and face outwards like a harpoon.

HOW THE KILLING MACHINE WORKS

When the bee stings, a scissors-like motion ensues. One biologist also described the motions as that of a screw anchor in the sense that once the stinger has penetrated its victim, it cannot retract outwards again. Muscles connect the stinger to a venom sac. From this sac, cell-destroying poison is released. A banana-like scent is released. This is deliberate. This is meant to give off a pungent signal that the hive may be under threat. This is supposed to set off a chain reaction of militant events. The pungent signal is a series of pheromones.
It excites other bees in the hive who then open their mandibles, extend their stingers and sting anything in site.

All-out war!

ONLY THE GIRLS DIE

Worker bees sting. But, interestingly, they are all female. The male bees are known as drones. The hive population’s majority is that of the worker bee. Thousands occupy and work in the hive, while there are only a few hundred drones. And, of course, only one (female) queen reigns supreme. Worker bees are infertile. Their sole purpose is to collect nectar, pollinate and defend their hive. The queen lays all the eggs while the drones fertilize the eggs. Queen bees sting too. But it is usually when they engage with rival queens, fighting for dominance over the hive.

THOSE THAT STING AND STING AGAIN

The poor honeybee is actually quite a gentle creature that means you no harm. All she really wants to do is get on with her job of collecting food for the hive, producing honey, and protecting the hive. Unlike the gentle honeybee, wasps, hornets and bumblebees are fierce creatures. And when they sting, they sting again and again. And if they want to, they can sting you again. These creatures do not die after stinging you.

THE NATURAL ORDER OF THINGS

In essence, the bee dies a natural death. She was never a truly active part of the hive’s reproductive process as the drones and queen bee are. Her role is truly heroic in the sense that she is protecting the hive, never really knowing (or does she know this) that she could die in defending the palace.

HUMANS ARE MORE DANGEROUS THAN BEES

According to many scientific records, at least thirty percent of the entire world bee population is dying by the millions every year. The highest recorded number of deaths or disappearance of bee populations and its homes was recorded as early as last year. We simply cannot ignore this mass extinction. Not only vital for bees, its survival ensures our survival. Destruction of this effective pollinator could mean the end of our ecosystems, at least as we know it, and quite possibly, the end of us too.