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Sting autotomy

What does it all mean?

This is a defense mechanism that takes place in gregariously social Hymenoptera such as wasps, hornets, yellow jackets and BEES. The insect will die after the sting, but in return the colony will be protected from the violator โ€“ an official trade-off. This is seen as a response of defense, rather than an offensive mechanism.

Autonomy can also be described as self-amputation or the leaving behind of a body part. Female honeybees are the only bees who leave behind their venom filled stingers. Carpenter bees and Bumblebees have smooth stingers which allows them to sting multiple times without meeting their fate. Such compliant and passive stingers!

If a bee probes through a thin skin, they may survive the battled encounter without autotomizing. However, if a bee stings thicker animal or human skin, it cannot pull the barbed stinger back out again as with a thinner skin sting where it simply slides back out. As a result, the stinger is stuck and disembowels the bee as it strives to fly away. The venom sack that is left behind, attached to muscles as well as part of the beeโ€™s digestive and nervous system, continues to release the poison, even after the bee is gone. This ultimately leads to the end of the bees life. In their lethargic state, bees often cling to flowers just before dropping off and dying. Probably the most completed picture after such a fatal destruction.

Bees Die after stinging, so why do they sting then?

The most obvious question would be why do bees sting when they know their endmost prick will kill them? Are they genuinely aware that this would be their fatal and final swindle?

Stinging for a bee is natural and happens instinctively. In the same way people act out when they feel intimidated, so do animals and pests โ€“ similar to our fight or flight response.

Honeybees will sting when feeling threatened, in order to protect themselves. Not only do they defend thousands of bees that make up their colonies, they also shield their pollen and nectar accumulation to feed their larvae and other adults. When a bee stings and the stinger is ripped out, alarm pheromones are released and other bees are alerted. Provoked and agitated enough to protect, they sting as well โ€“ very much a group effort. Working together is key!

This only happens with Honeybees. Other insects have smoother stings and do not rip their bodies apart when launching their prickers into any skin. Hornets and wasps are predominantly jolting jerks who only sting for fun, because they can. Why BEE so adamant and rude?


Steps to take after you have been stung

  • Seek medical attention after you have informed others.
  • Be sure to be noticeably viral if you have an allergy with regards to beestings.
  • Once you have been stung, it is important to pull the stinger out as quickly as possible. The longer it remains imbedded in the skin, the more venom is released. Use your fingertips or a straight edged object and swipe across the stung area to remove effectively.
  • Use soap and water and wash the area well.
  • You can use a cold compress after removal to reduce redness and swelling. (Some beestings may cause pain. This is due to melittin, an acidic compound in the venom, Pain receptors will be activated and swelling may be caused by histamines.)
  • Some people are severely allergic to beestings. It is important to seek medical attention as this can be dangerous and even fatal.

Bees play a vital role in our eco system and are needed for many of our food crop supplies. Without the work of our bee community this would become a serious problem.

Sydneys Best Pest Control offers a chemical free bee treatment which safely removes the bees and their hives. Call us on 1800 819 189ย  for a free quote on the effective and safe removal of any buzzing bee dilemma. BEEWISE!

Further informative reading material

Bee and wasp control

Taking the sting out of stinging insects

How to prevent stings

A bee or a wasp?