Why Do Honeybees Die after They Sting?
The stinger of a female, or worker, honeybee is covered with tiny barbs. Usually the bee will sting only in self-defense. When it does, the barbed stinger hooks into your flesh so firmly that the bee usually cannot pull it out.
It must tear itself away, leaving part of its body attached to the stinger. It leaves behind not only the stinger but also part of its digestive tract, plus muscles and nerves. The bee dies of massive abdominal rupture soon after losing its stinger.
That is why a worker bee usually can sting only once in its life. Queen bees have smooth stingers that can be used over and over, but queens sting only other queen bees, not people. Drones, or male bees, do not have stingers.
When a bee stings you, it gives off a mixture of alarm pheromones from a gland near the sting chamber. These pheromones excite the other bees in the hive, who will open their mandibles, protrude their stingers, and sting anything that moves close to them.
The process of leaving behind a body part as a form of defense – in this case, part of the abdomen – is called autotomy. Other examples in the animal kingdom include lizards dropping their tails and crabs leaving their claws behind when they’re threatened.