|My question is: do bees know they are gonna die
when they sting someone?
I wonder that because a lot of bees sting people.
I think they do not know because if I was a bee I
wouldn’t want to die over stinging someone but I
do not know and that is my question. Thank you.|
|Question Date: 2017-12-06|
Almost certainly not. It’s a romantic idea that
a single bee will make the ultimate sacrifice to
protect the hive, but the truth is that they
probably don’t think they’ll die after stinging.
The only bees that die when they sting are
honey bees . Bees have evolved for wars
between bees and its unlikely that
stinging thick-skinned mammals was important.
Honey bees have barbed stingers which are a
devastating weapon against other bees. When a
barbed stinger is pulled out of another insect, it
rips the enemy insect apart. However, humans
skin is too thick so when it tries to pull out
the stinger, the bee itself is ripped apart.
It’s unlikely the bee could know ahead of time
that stinging some enemies is fatal.
While a bee may not know that it’ll die after
stinging, it is willing to fight to the death. The
strange thing about worker bees is that they are
more related to their sisters than their
Therefore, worker bees don’t have children and
just protect the queen who will make more sisters
for the worker bees. The core idea here is
that an organism wants to distribute its genes as
much as possible. The worker bees can accomplish
this by dying to protect the queen.
Interestingly enough, the
queen has a smooth stinger so she can sting a
human without dying. However, the queen
usually only uses her stinger against rival
It is difficult to know this for a fact, as
it's hard to measure what bees know and what
they don't. Assuming that bees know what death
is at all, I would suspect that they probably do
know that they are going to die.
Bees don't have the same things that they care
about that you do as a human. Bees care about
their colonies, not about themselves. Dying
still isn't good for the colony as it means one
fewer workers, but if a bee can save the colony
but has to die in order to do so, the bee will
die. They don't care about their own lives
the way that you do.
There are lots of species of insects that
people might call bees. Let’s focus on honey
bees. They die after they sting. There are
other stinging insects that look more or less like
bees, such as wasps. They do not die after they
sting, so they can sting you multiple times.
No, I don’t think bees know that they will
die. Bees work on instinct and don’t really know
the reasons for what they do. The life of a
worker bee is mostly about sacrificing herself.
Bees have a very interesting society. Males mate
with the queen, then die soon after. All of the
other bees are female. A worker bee will start her
life caring for young inside the hive. As she gets
older, she starts hunting for nectar and pollen to
bring back to the hive. Those are the bees you see
flying around. Some will become guards of the
hive. These worker bees will only live about 40
days, so if they sting someone on day 35 of their
lives, they have not lost a lot of time.
Queen bees live for up to 5 years. You
almost never see a queen because she spends most
of her life in the hive.
So why should a worker bee do all of this
and never have any babies herself? One answer
is that the chemicals of the queen control
her. Another reason is that she is raising
relatives that will pass on her genes. She doesn’t
know that either. Understanding how insect
societies like this evolved takes a bit of
genetics and a bit of math, but it’s something you
may want to study.
Thanks for asking.
The brain of a bee is much smaller and simpler
than a human brain, so it is difficult to know if
bees are aware they are going to die when they
sting someone. Bees lack a developed frontal
cortex so it is unlikely they can think
abstractly about sacrificing themselves for the
Bees live in highly organized societies and it is
better to think of individual bees as simple
agents that follow very simple instinctual
rules that are genetically programed into
them. Worker bees are the bees that sting and
they cannot reproduce on their own. Their only
purpose is to ensure the survival of the hive. If
they think that the hive is threatened they will
instinctively sting to protect the hive. Since the
bees that sting don’t reproduce on their own and
cannot themselves pass on their own genes, it is
an evolutionary advantage for the colony to have
self-sacrificing bees, because it ensures the
colony will survive to pass on its genetic
For bees, ants, and termites that live in very
complex social structures, it is better to think
of the hive or colony as a whole being more
important than the individuals. As an analogy,
you are made of many individual cells, but as a
whole person, you are more important than any
single cell. All the individual cells work
together for the survival of the whole organism.
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