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Wednesday, January 11, 2006 Bookmark Now! | Email to a friend  

Do bees really die after they sting you?

It's true -- female honeybees die after they sting. Their stingers are actually ovipositors, tubular structures extending from the abdomen that sometimes contain eggs. When the barbed stinger is left inside the victim, the honeybee mortally tears her abdomen in the process. Alas, she dies.

Note, however, that only female honeybees die after stinging. Fortunately, honeybees are relatively docile, and only commit suicidal acts when provoked. And they only die if they sting a mammal, because of the thickness of our skin. They can sting other insects with impunity.

The mechanics of bee-stinging are fascinating. As Dr. Universe notes, a valve-and-piston motion causes the stinger to both sink itself into your skin, as well as pump venom through the tiny lancets. Also, an "alarm pheromone" secreted at the base of the stinger causes other bees in the vicinity to get riled up.

Fortunately, only about one out of a hundred people are allergic to bee stings, but allergic reactions can be very serious. Yahoo! Health suggests that if you are bit, don't squeeze the bite -- you'll just pump more venom into your system. Try gently scraping off the stinger with a butter knife or a credit card. Of course, if it really hurts, seek medical help.

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