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What's the evolutionary advantage of bees dying after they sting?

Launcher gethin
Status Closed Mediated Closed 3 years, 5 months ago
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Evolution/Evolutionary biology Entomology Apiology


A one shot sting, what's the use of that? I understand that the queen been can sting multiple times without dying but why do ordinary honey bees only get one shot before ripping out their abdomen?

Answers (4)

  • Moriarty
    Aug 14, 2011

    It is a partial (and rather popular) misconception that bees can only sting once and then die out after one shot. This is only partially true regarding honey bees whose barbed stings often gets left behind. In fact other species of bee, like for example the bumble bee, has been known to sting more than once, as opposed to the honey bee which usualy leaves the stinger on its victim's body.[1][2]

    The primary reason for this is that a worker honey bee's sting has small barbs (bumble bees, queen bees and many other stinging insects have smooth stings) which often gets caught when it stings an animal with thick skin.

    These barbs are believe to have evolved for the purpose of combat with other insects, the barbs making it easier for the honey bee to penetrate the hard exoskeleton of their opponents.[3]

    If a honey bee was able to remove their sting from a victim (for example if the sting was not that deep) then it is highly likely that it will attack another time.

    The barbs of the sting was an evolutionary advantage from the perspective of the honey bee against other insects (another colony perhaps that enter their territory or against wasps that often kill bees for food) but against mammals this advantage works against them.


  • nathanww
    Jul 20, 2011

    It comes down to a species evolving a 'good enough" solution to a problem.

    In most species, individuals dying after defending themselves would be a major negative trait. However,worker bees(which are the most likely to sting you) are almost always sterile females, who would be incapable of passing on any DNA even if they did not die after stinging. This means that the evolutionary cost of the worker dying is very small, because the worker cannot make any genetic contribution. The only cost to the colony is replacing the work done by the worker bee, which is almost negligible.

  • anthonyjschulte
    Jul 21, 2011

    Due to the nature of our skin (it is exceptionally elastic) humans cause bees to lose their stingers, and attached internal organs/ structures and die after stinging. This is not the case for all animals. Bees did not evolve in the proximity of humans, so there has been no evolutionary advantage for bees which can sting the rubber-skinned humans and not die.

  • Harlene Flores
    Aug 13, 2011

    Honeybees have a one shot sting because its stinger gets stuck on the skin of the human or animal it stings. The stinger cannot be removed by the bee so it is left on the skin including other body parts of the bee attached to the stinger such as abdominal tracts, nerves, and muscles. The bee does not survive the removal of some abdominal parts and thus die.

    The worker bees and the queen bees are the ones with stingers while drones or male bees do not have stingers. Worker bees are sterile females and perform the most responsibilities around the hive such as making combs, gathering pollens, cleaning the hive, and tending the young bees, the queen, and the drones. They also protect the hive and sting intruders to ensure the safety of the hive. From an evolutionary point of view, it is sort of a sacrifice. Since worker bees do not reproduce, they protect the other members of the hive that do reproduce so they can live and continue their line.


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