Why do bees die after stinging?

| David Lewis | Nature

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First and foremost, there are about 20,000 different species of bees most of which can sting multiple times. However for a very small number of species – the seven species of the honey bee – stinging is a one-way trip… but even that only in some cases.

The honey bee has a jagged sting. When it stings other insects it will be able to pull out the sting and go its merry way. However, when the bee stings an animal with thick skin (such as mammals or birds) when it pulls the sting out it is caught in the skin and tear apart from the bee’s body, along with its digestive tract, some muscles, and nerves. In other words, it disembowels itself.

Bonus fact 1: The left-behind sting will continue to dig deeper and spread venom for several minutes. This fascinating phenomenon is orchestrated by a cluster of left-behind nerve cells that coordinates the marooned muscles and the sting.

Bonus fact 2: When the bee stings it spreads in the air a mixture of pheromones from which serves as an alarm to other members of the hive.

Bonus fact 3: The queen-bee has a smooth sting that allows multiple stinging. Nonetheless, it will normally attack only other queens.

Bonus fact 4: In general, while female bees can sting, males are stingless.

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