Do Bumblebees Sting?

bumblebee stinger
Unlike honey bees, bumblebees can sting multiple times due to their smooth stinger

Bumblebees are highly protective of their nests and colonies, so they will sting any perceived threat or intruder, including other insects. Only worker and queen bumblebees have stingers, however.

Males don’t have stingers. A cloud, or gathering of male drones, is unable to sting when disturbed.

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    Do Bumblebee Have Stingers?

    Females of every bumble bee species wield stingers. Stingers are thought to have evolved from the non-functional reproductive systems of worker bees. Worker bees do not develop a complete reproductive system, while queens do.

    This leaves them with an empty ovipositor, which is the tube where eggs are deposited.

    The stinger connects to a venom sac, which pumps venom into the venom bulb at the top of the stinger via two valves. The venom flows from the venom sac into the bulb, and then into the hollow canal in the stinger. This flows into the victim through the wound created by the stinger.

    The ovipositor has evolved to release venom to a singer. Since this is specific to female reproduction, male reproductive organs did not evolve to become stingers.

    Male bumblebees have reproductive organs in place of stingers on their bodies. Like stingers, these parts tuck into the body.

    A bumblebee that stings is most likely a worker bee since queens rarely leave the nests.

    What Happens When a Bumblebee Stings You?

    When a bumblebee stings you, they simultaneously inject venom into the wound. While honeybee stings can inject up to 50 micrograms of venom, bumblebees leave behind a significantly smaller amount.

    The venom’s proteins and compounds cause pain and inflammation reactions:

    Phospholipase A protein that damages cell membranes.
    Tryptic amidase A protein that affects clotting factors.
    Histamine A chemical that triggers an immune response.
    Hyaluronidase An enzyme that moves the venomous compounds into surrounding tissue.

    Bumblebee stings typically cause a milder reaction than honey bees since they inject lower volumes of venom.

    In addition to the venom, a bee sting can set off alarm pheromones that alert other bees of a threat. Bees may sense these pheromones and swarm to the area to ward off the intruder. For people and animals with bee allergies, this swarming behaviour can be dangerous. Those with bee allergies should attempt to relocate to nearby colonies.

    What Does a Bumblebee Sting Look and Feel Like?

    Bumblebee stingers are smooth and do not have barbs, so they’re unlikely to leave a stinger in the skin. The sting wound can cause a local reaction with swelling, redness, and itching, however. Welts are common with bee stings as well.

    Bumblebee stings can hurt and are not easy to ignore. A single sting may hurt less than a honey bee or wasp sting, but an aggravated bumble bee will sting more than once.

    Venom is part of the reason why stings can be painful. When a bumble stings you, the stinger can lodge into your skin and pump venom continually.

    Though bumblebees can sting more than once, they’re not as likely to do so as wasps. In most cases, bumblebees will only sting one time in warning, unlike wasps that act more aggressively.

    Severe allergies can progress to anaphylaxis, which can be fatal. People allergic to honey bee venom are more likely to have an allergic reaction to bumblebee venom, however.

    The symptoms from a bumblebee sting can last a few hours to a few days. Sometimes swelling can last for a week in more severe reactions.

    bumblebee collecting strawberry flower nectar
    Some people can have an allergic reaction to bumblebee venom which makes bumblebee sting potentially dangerous

    Are Bumblebee Stings Dangerous?

    Bumblebee stings can be dangerous to those allergic to their venom. When stung on the head or neck, this increases the likelihood of swelling in the throat.

    Bee stings can cause anaphylaxis. Within a couple of hours of a sting, allergy sufferers may develop a rash, nausea, vomiting, and difficulty breathing, eventually leading to anaphylactic shock. However, this severe reaction is more common with honey bee stings and not bumble bee stings.

    Are Bumblebees Aggressive?

    Bumblebees are not aggressive creatures. Beekeepers can go their whole careers without a bumblebee stinging them.

    Typically, bumblebees are docile and may even befriend humans. They will sting if mishandled or threatened, however.

    Though bumblebees are rarely aggressive, they are defensive of their nests and food sources. Disturbing their nest can provoke them to sting. When one bee stings, it releases pheromones that warn other bees about a threat. This may cause multiple bees to sting.

    Some male bees may roam around outside of the hive and fly into people. However, since they are unable to sting, they are harmless.

    When Do Bumblebees Sting?

    Bumblebees sting as a last-resort defence mechanism to fend off imminent threats to themselves or their hive. Most bumblebees won’t sting without provocation.

    Are Bumblebees Venomous?

    Bumblebees have venom sacs that release venom upon stinging. The venom causes inflammation and sometimes allergic reactions in humans and animals.

    Certain proteins, known as tryptic amidase, are found in bumblebee venom. These proteins impact the clotting factors in the blood, causing blood cells to burst and capillaries to leak, causing pain and cell damage. The reaction is painful but short-lived.

    Bumblebees are docile insects but will sting when feel threatened

    Do Bumblebees Die When They Sting?

    Bumblebees do not usually die after they sting, since their smooth stinger can be pulled out of the wound. Bumblebees usually only die if their stinger is dislodged from their body, which removes a large portion of their abdomens.  Bumblebees can sting each other, other insects, and animals without losing their stinger in the process.

    This is more common in honey bees since their stingers are barbed and often get stuck inside the victim. Barbed stingers can easily get stuck in elastic surfaces, such as human skin.

    Bumblebees, wasps, and other bee species have smooth stingers. Honey bees are the only species with barbed stingers, which is believed to be an evolutionary advantage to ward off animals that seek out the honey supply.

    Bumblebee Stings vs. Honey Bee Stings

    A bumblebee can sting multiple times because its stinger is smooth, unlike that of the honey bee. A honey bee can only sting once because its barbed stinger will disconnect from the bee’s body and lodge in its victim. Bumblebee and honey bee venom are similar, but not exactly the same. There are a couple of different allergens that separate the two types of venom.

    The main distinction between bumblebee and honeybee venom is the presence of a protein called melittin. Honeybee venom is made up of a large amount of melittin, while bumblebee venom has none.

    This peptide compound is the active component of honey bee venom and the primary source of its pain. Melittin also accounts for the potential lethality of honey bee venom, since its a cause of an allergic reaction in some people and animals.

    How Do You Prevent Bumblebee Stings?

    It is not difficult to avoid bumble bee stings. Many people mistake bumble bees as aggressive, and their large size can be intimidating, but they’re generally docile. Bumblebees are relatively harmless creatures that do not sting without provocation. Their stingers are used to ward off threats and other insects.

    Bees can sting other bees, especially if they don’t recognize them as hive mates.

    Quick movements and swatting at a bumblebee may be threatening to them. Additionally, handling a bumblebee roughly will cause them to sting.

    Bumblebees are attracted to floral scents and blue and purple colours. Avoid wearing strong fragrances or wearing these colours around bumblebees.

    Most people are not fond of bees building nests in their yards. There are ways of ridding the nest from your property without harming the bees, such as hiring a professional to relocate the colony.

    can you pet a bumblebee
    Similarly to honey bees male bumblebees do not have stingers

    Some Bumblebees Sting, but Not All

    Only worker and queen bumblebees have stingers; the males do not. Bumblebees don’t usually die after they sting due to their smooth stingers, but if the stinger is dislodged from the bee upon stinging, the bumblebee will die. This is why honey bees die after they sting: Their barbed stingers detach from their body.

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