Where Does a Bee Keep Its Sting?
A bee keeps its sting at the end of its abdomen. At the tip of a bee’s abdomen is a shaft where its stinging thorn is to be found. It can sting several times, but once it leaves the thorn in its victim’s flesh it will not be able to sting again. It is not true to say that a bee will automatically die once it loses its thorn.
The sting consists of three parts: a stylus and two barbed slides (or lancets), one on either side of the stylus. The bee does not push the sting in but it is drawn in by the barbed slides. The slides move alternately up and down the stylus so when the barb of one slide has caught and retracts, it pulls the stylus and the other barbed slide into the wound.
When the other barb has caught, it also retracts up the stylus pulling the sting further in. This process is repeated until the sting is fully in and even continues after the sting and its mechanism is detached from the bee’s abdomen. When a honey bee stings a person, it cannot pull the barbed stinger back out.
It leaves behind not only the stinger, but also part of its abdomen and digestive tract, plus muscles and nerves. This massive abdominal rupture kills the honey bee. Honey bees are the only bees to die after stinging.
Only female bees can sting. Male bees, or drones, lack this means of protecting themselves. There is a species of which even the female cannot sting. But these bees which live mainly in Africa and South America are not defenseless.
If disturbed, they will fly at the intruder in great numbers, crawl into his eyes, ears and hair and smear him with a sticky substance, causing him to retreat in great discomfort.
The most aggressive stinging insects are vespid wasps (including bald-faced hornets and other yellow jackets) and hornets (especially the Asian giant hornet). All of these insects aggressively defend their nests.