Can Bees Sting Other Bees? (What You Need To Know)

by Alex Kountry
Updated on

Whether you are a new beekeeper or just someone with an avid interest in nature, you might have seen bees stinging each other and wondered the reasons for that since they tend to be close knitted social creatures.

It goes without saying that you don’t walk into a bee hive carelessly and leave unscathed.

Though bees are generally peaceful creatures they are also fierce in nature and are ready to protect their hives and most importantly the queen bee

Bees stinging humans and even smaller animals is a natural and common phenomenon, however have you ever thought about the fact that bees can sting other bees?

The answer is yes, bees are capable of stinging other bees and there are various reasons for doing this.

One of the instances where bees sting other bees is when a bee that is not from the hive tries to enter hive, the guard bees see the intruder as a threat and immediately sting them to refute entry. 

This article will provide more details on the nuances of a bee stinging another bee, what happens when bees sting each other among other things.

What Happens When Bees Sting Each Other?

Can Bees Sting Other Bees

Bees usually sting other bees when they are protecting their hives from robber bees.

If a bee from another hive tries to enter the hive, the guard bees will sting it repeatedly to refuse entry. 

Queen bees also sting other queen bees while fighting for the hive because there can only be one queen bee in the hive.

A new queen might emerge from the cells and when this happens, the old queen is threatened.

Because bee hives can only tolerate more than one queen for a short time, the old and new queen have to fight it out and sometimes it can be a fight to the death.

The old queen either dies or leaves the hive to start another colony

When honey bees sting humans and other mammals, they die because they have barbed stingers which get stuck in the skin of humans and the animals they are stinging. 

Death occurs for the worker bee when she tries to retract the stuck stinger as it causes it to be ripped from her abdomen.

However because bees and other insects have soft underbellies they do not experience these problems when they sting other bees.

As such a worker bee can sting another bee repeatedly without the stinger getting stuck and ripped from the abdomen

Most bee fights are lethal and short lived. If a bee gets stung repeatedly by another bee or a set of bees, it will die if its body is not able to survive the injuries caused by the stings.

Related: Here is an article I wrote on does neem oil kill bees?

Do Bees Attack Other Hives?

Bees from a colony can attack a hive and this is called a robber invasion.

Most times the robber bees do this when they cannot find nectar to survive and the sole aim is to steal nectar from the defending hive. 

Hive robbing most times occurs during late fall to early summer when there is a shortage of nectar.

Sometimes a beekeeper can be careless by dropping honey around the beehive from which invading bees pick up the scent and plan an attack.

Hive attacks are brutal and can be very disastrous because the defending colony is ready to fight to the death to protect their hive and nectar.

If they are unable to defend the hive, the invading bees will open their honey stores, feed themselves and carry the rest back to their hive.

If a hive is robbed successfully, it changes the behavior of such bees as they become aggressive and nasty. 

Beehive robbery is a serious occurrence that can completely destroy a weak hive or weaken it the most.

As a beekeeper there are important steps you can take to handle and stop robbery attacks on your bee hive.

Can Male And Female Bees Sting Each Other?

Male bees cannot sting because they do not have stingers.

Honey bees have three main categories, the male bee, the worker bee and the queen bee.

  •  Male Bee

The male bees also known as the drones do not have stings. They are larger in size and their major purpose is to mate the queen for production of royal larvae.

Drones do not perform any other tasks in the hive, they do not collect nectar or tend the hive.

They eat directly from the nectar stored in the colony. 

During bee wars, they are onlookers and do not engage in fights with the female worker bees.

Due to the absence of stingers in their anatomy, they cannot sting neither mammals or fellow bees.

  • Worker Bee

The worker bees are female and incapable of reproduction. They are numerous and usually carry out activities in the hive ranging from house tasks, to taking care of the queen and the royal larvae.

Their most important task however is guarding the hive from intruders.

Worker bees are strongest when they are 21 days old and during that period they usually serve as guard worker bees. 

They are the ones who protect the hive. Worker bees usually sting when they perceive a threat of danger.

They do have barbed stingers which get caught in the skin of humans and other mammals.

  • Queen Bee

The queen bee is the royalty of the hive and as such her job is basically production of more bees as she’s usually the only female capable of reproduction in the hive. 

The queen bee also releases a pheromone known as the queen substance.

This substance is important in the bee life cycle and it is usually passed along with food in the hive.

A queen bee has a lifespan of 5 to 6 years however she can be superseded by another queen if her pheromone production levels start dropping or if she produces more drones than female bees. 

This would usually happen as she gets older. 

From these categories, we can see that since male bees do not possess stings and as such cannot sting other bees or animals.

They coexist peacefully with their female counterparts. You can also learn more about honeybees and their anatomy.

Also check out this article I wrote on do bees have bones?

Do Bees Die When They Sting Other Animals?

As we have established earlier, only the female species of bees can sting and they only sting when they sense an animal as a threat or danger to their queen.

Typically for a female honey bee, stinging is fatal because her barbed sting is caught in the skin of the animal she just stung.

To leave, she has to pull it out and that means ripping out her abdomen causing instant death to the bee.

This only happens when the bee is stinging animals with thick skin such as humans and other bee predators like lizards.

For insects and other bees the honey bee can easily pull out her sting because the flesh of the insect is softer.

Queen bees do not have barbed stingers and as such can sting other animals repeatedly without having to worry about getting ripped.

So you should probably be worried when you see a queen bee coming for you. Fortunately, they spend most of their lives within the hives being protected by the worker bees.

Other species of bees such as the bumble bees are also capable of stinging. Bumble bees do not have barbed stings and can sting multiple times.

Bumble bees however are more docile and less defensive than honey bees.

They also have hive structure with the worker bee, drones and the queen bee.

Typically bumble bees only attack when they are provoked and they feel their hive is threatened.

Attacks happen very close to the hive so you have to be careful when walking around to avoid walking into a bumble bee hive.

This can be a little difficult because bumble bees often nest in the ground.

Carpenter bees are another species of bees who can also sting but rarely do so except when you are poking at them or pushing your hands into their hive hole.

Again, only the female bees have stingers, the males are stingless. 

However unlike the honey bee drones, carpenter drones stay as guards to their hives and usually buzz very angrily and fly at you if you come too close to their hive.

Do Bees Know When You Kill Another Bee

Generally bees do not know when other bees die. So if you kill a bee there is no way for its’ counterparts to come rushing down with vengeance upon you when. 

Though bees release pheromones in their daily activities, there is no particular scent they exude when they die. 

When a bee senses danger or is stressed, they release an alarm pheromone to warn other bees and that is why when you see a solitary bee get out of there as fast as you can to avoid the whole swarm coming down on you.

In the hive, the only way a bee knows a dead bee is when it has stopped giving off pheromones.

A living bee gives off a variety of pheromones as it goes about its daily activities, and other bees can recognize the absence of such.

They then go ahead to remove the bee from the hive and dispose of it.

Can a Bee Sting Itself?

Bees only sting when they sense danger and are trying to protect their hives. They would not hesitate to sting any intruder they see as harmful to their colony.

Honeybees are known to die from their sting and this form of suicide defense happens because their barbed stings gets lodged in thick skins.

However when stinging other insects or bees, the process of stinging will not affect the bee fatally and it will only die when the injuries are too much for it to survive.

Bees are not known to sting themselves, however in the rare case that this happens it will probably not have a fatal effect since the bees body will handle the venom.

Conclusion

Bees are interesting animals that humans keep studying for their social structure, tidiness and lifestyle. 

However we do not need to warn you to stay away from bee colonies to avoid getting stung.

As a beekeeper we hope this article has helped you to further understand these insects and help you rear them better.

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About the author

Alex Kountry

Alex Kountry is the founder of HayFarmGuy and has been a backyard farmer for over 10 years. Since then he has decided to write helpful articles that will help you become a better backyard farmer and know what to do. He also loves to play tennis and read books