Bees are notorious for their stingers. While a bee’s stinger is a very important part of its survival, bees can bite as well.
Biting may seem like it would be a last-resort mechanism, but it is a very useful function that is used often by many different types of bees to protect their hives from wax moths and to fend off creatures too small to sting.
Can Bees Bite You?
While bees can bite humans, it is not a very common occurrence, which is why many may be unaware that a bee can bite.
A honey bee often bites when the creature it is attacking is too small for it to sting. These smaller creatures are not large enough for a stinger, so a bee resorts to using its mandibles to bite it instead.
Mandibles are the “jaws” of a bee. They can open and close and are often used to grab onto items. These mandibles even have their own “teeth.” These teeth are not like human teeth, however. Instead, they are jagged grooves that are naturally formed into the mandibles.
Mandibles have glands inside of them that can secrete chemicals when a bee bites a creature.
Who Discovered That Bees Can Bite?
The discovery that bees can bite was made partly by accident. A team of Greek and French researchers is credited with making the find. This team was studying the wax moth, which can be a major problem for bees and beehives. To try to control these moths, the researchers utilized the chemical 2-Heptanone, a chemical that is naturally created by bees.
While they initially thought that this chemical killed the moths, they quickly realized that it anaesthetized them instead. Once this discovery was made, the team began researching what was happening. After running more tests, they discovered that bees bite creatures that are too small for them to sting.
What kinds of bees bite?
Many types of bees can bite, but here are a few that can:
- Stingless bees;
- Any bee with mandibles.
A bee can bite as long as it has mandibles.
Do Bees Bite Humans?
While bees do not often bite humans, it can happen. There is a reason why most people associate bees with their stingers: Bees often sting humans if they are aggressive instead of biting them. As most people know, this sting is fatal to some species of bees as it ruptures their abdomens as they fly away.
Some bees do not have stingers, but those that don’t are still capable of biting humans.
What Happens When A Bee Bites You?
When a bee bites you, it releases an anaesthetic chemical into your body. While this chemical can paralyze some small creatures, the dosage is not even close to being large enough to do so to humans.
The mandibles of the bee must also break skin in order to release this chemical. If the mandibles fail to break your skin, they can’t release the chemical.
What Does a Bee Bite Look Like?
Bee bite may not get as red and swollen as a bee sting, they still have the potential to do so.
This also depends on what type of bee bites you. If a bee persists in biting you for a long time, the bite may look worse.
Is A Bee Bite Painful?
Bee bites can occasionally be painful, but they should not hurt nearly as much as bee stings do, as bee bites do not inject venom into the victim as the stinger does.
Is a Honey Bee Bite Venomous?
While honey bee bites do technically release a chemical into the creature that has been bitten, they are not considered venomous in the case of humans. While this chemical works as an anaesthetic for very small creatures, humans are far too large to be affected by it.
The bee species Trigona hyalinata can persist in biting for around 30 minutes. This species of bee has no stinger, so its bite is its only weapon. These bees have incredibly powerful mandibles.
What Is the Difference Between a Bee Sting and a Bee Bite?
There are many differences between bee stings and bites. One of the largest is that bees will not die after delivering a bite to a creature. When some species of bees use their stinger to sting a creature, their abdomens are ruptured as they fly away.
A bee bite releases venom into the victim as the stinger does, and a bee will resort to biting if the creature it’s attacking is too small to sting. A bee’s bite often results in the victim becoming anaesthetized for about one to nine minutes.
Which Species of Bee Have the Most Painful Bite?
While bee bites, in general, may not be very painful, some types of bees do cause more pain than others:
- Trigona Hyalinata;
- Stingless bees.
There are many bees who have not had the pain of their bite measured, so this list is simply a sample of a few known bees with bites.
What Happens When a Bee Bites a Wax Moth?
As mentioned earlier, wax moths can be huge problems for bees. They can destroy beehives by burrowing inside of them and chewing the honeycomb. This process is very harmful to beehives, but bees have ways to counter this.
When a bee finds a wax moth in its hive, it will often bite it with its mandibles. This bite is powerful enough to pierce the cuticle of the moth. When it does this, it injects it with the chemical 2-Heptanone. This chemical acts as an anaesthetic, putting the moths to sleep within a few minutes or so. Bees then expel the moths from the hive, saving them from any further damage.
What Is 2-Heptanone?
2-Heptanone is the chemical that is released when a bee uses its bite. Researchers initially thought that 2-Heptanone was a pheromone that could be used to alert other bees, but this theory was eventually proven to be wrong. This chemical is actually an anaesthetic, so it can paralyze small creatures, such as the previously mentioned wax moth. 2-Heptanone is released from glands in the bee’s mandibles.
2-Heptanone acts very similarly to the anaesthetic lidocaine, although 2-Heptanone is less effective. The aesthetic nature of this chemical has led many scientists to hypothesize that it could have potential medicinal benefits.
How Does It Affect A Mammal’s Nervous System?
2-Heptanone works by blocking certain voltage-gated sodium channels in a creature, which is also what lidocaine does. These channels are extremely important for function in all types of creatures, so when they are blocked, they lead to paralysis. This is why 2-Heptanone is such an effective anesthetic.
A Bee’s Bite Is Just as Important as Its Sting
While bees get a lot of attention for their sting, their bite is also a mechanism worth noting that is very important to the daily functions of a bee. Many people will go their entire lives without ever being bit by a bee.
Without a bite, bees would not be able to defend themselves from very small creatures, and they would also not be able to expel creatures like wax moths from their hives.