Bees play a crucial role in pollination, contributing to the health of various ecosystems and our food supply. However, many people are concerned about whether bees, specifically the “good” ones, sting humans. Good news bees primarily refer to those that are essential for pollination and honey production, like honey bees and bumblebees.
Honey bees generally sting when they perceive a threat to their colony. When honey bees sting, they release a pheromone that alerts other bees to the potential danger, leading to more stinging. Bumblebees, however, have a less aggressive demeanor and are less likely to sting. Their stingers don’t have barbs, allowing them to sting multiple times without dying, unlike honey bees. All bees tend to sting as a last resort for defense, so it’s essential to give them space and avoid provoking them.
Keep in mind that while bee stings may be a concern, their ecological importance far outweighs the risk. Giving these helpful pollinators a respectful distance can help minimize the risk of stings while still supporting their critical role in our environment.
Understanding Bees and Their Behavior
Honey Bees and Their Hives
Honey bees live in a colony within a structure called a hive. The hive is a well-organized home where the bees work together to survive and create honey. Some features of honey bee hives include:
- Made of hexagonal wax cells
- Provides space for egg-laying, living, and honey storage
- Protection from external threats
Foraging and Nectar Collection
Bees actively search for flowers to collect nectar, which is a crucial part of creating honey. During their foraging trips, they also help in pollination by transferring pollen between flowers. This process is essential for plant reproduction. While foraging, bees exhibit some characteristics, such as:
- Being attracted to colorful flowers
- Using their long proboscis to extract nectar
- Communicating the location of flowers to fellow bees through a “waggle dance”
Social Structure: Queen, Drones, and Workers
Honey bees have a unique social structure within the colony, with specific roles for each member:
- Only one in the colony
- Responsible for laying eggs
- Produces pheromones to control worker bees
- Male bees
- Sole purpose is to mate with the queen
- Do not collect nectar or pollen
- Female bees
- Perform various duties including foraging, nursing larvae, and guarding the hive
- Majority of bees in the colony
Comparing Honey Bees and Bumble Bees
|Feature||Honey Bee||Bumble Bee|
In conclusion, understanding the behavior and social structure of honey bees is essential for not only beekeepers but also individuals who want to appreciate these fascinating creatures’ role in our ecosystem.
Bee Stings and Allergic Reactions
Symptoms and Severity Levels
Bee stings can cause various symptoms, ranging from mild to severe. Some common immediate reactions include:
The severity of the reaction may differ from person to person. For example, someone may experience mild pain and itching, while another might have more severe swelling and discomfort. The discomfort from a bee sting can typically last for 2-3 days.
Anaphylaxis and Treatment
In some cases, individuals may experience a severe allergic reaction called anaphylaxis. Symptoms may include:
- Trouble breathing
- Swelling of the throat
If an individual experiences any of these symptoms after being stung, it is crucial to seek immediate medical attention, as it can lead to anaphylactic shock. Experts recommend that children and those with known severe allergies should carry an EpiPen with them.
Treatment for mild reactions often involves an antihistamine, which can help alleviate pain, itching, and swelling. On the other hand, severe allergic reactions may require an EpiPen or other adrenaline injections to counteract the effects of anaphylaxis.
|Mild Symptoms||Severe Symptoms (Anaphylaxis)|
|Swelling||Swelling of the throat|
Additionally, the American Academy of Allergy recommends that those with known severe allergies consult with their healthcare provider for further guidance on managing potential allergic reactions to bee stings.
Preventing and Treating Bee Stings
How to Avoid Being Stung
To prevent bee stings, it’s essential to stay calm and avoid agitating bees. Remember the following points:
- Avoid: Bright clothing, perfumes, and food with strong odors
- Cover: Wear long sleeves and pants when in bee-heavy areas
- Stay calm: Swatting at bees can provoke them to sting
In California and other hot weather areas, bees can be more active, increasing the chances of being stung.
Proper Stinger Removal
In case you get stung, it’s important to remove the stinger without delay while avoiding squeezing it. Two methods to consider include:
- Using a credit card: Gently scrape the stinger out with the edge of a card
- Using tweezers: Grasp the stinger near its base and gently pull it out
Refer to this video for a demonstration on proper stinger removal.
Application of Remedies
After removing the stinger, applying remedies can help reduce the pain and itching. Here are a few options:
- Baking soda paste: Mix baking soda with water to create a paste, apply on the sting
- Hydrocortisone cream: Apply a small amount for itch relief
- Calamine lotion: Use to soothe itching and skin irritation
- Essential oils: Lavender or tea tree oil can have an anti-inflammatory effect
|Baking soda||Inexpensive, easy to find||Temporary relief|
|Calamine lotion||Soothes itching||Not for severe cases|
|Hydrocortisone||Relieves itch||Overuse can harm skin|
|Essential oils||Natural option||May not suit everyone|
In severe cases, such as multiple stings or when an individual experiences difficulty breathing, hives, or diarrhea, seek medical attention immediately. Parents should monitor their child after a bee sting for any unusual reactions.
Remember, taking preventive measures can go a long way in avoiding bee stings. In case a sting occurs, act quickly to remove the stinger and apply the appropriate remedies.
Bees and the Environment
Natural Predators and Parasites
Bees face numerous threats, including natural predators and various parasites. For instance, wasps, such as yellow jackets, are known to attack bee hives to consume larvae. Additionally, bees can fall victim to the parasites like Varroa mites, which can transmit harmful viruses.
Role in Pollination and Agriculture
Bees play a crucial role in both pollination and agriculture. As primary pollinators, they transfer pollen between flowers, thus fostering plant reproduction. In fact, honey bees account for the agricultural benefit of pollination at a value 10 to 20 times higher than the total value of honey and beeswax.
Some notable pros and cons of bees in agriculture include:
- Efficient pollination of various crops
- Increased crop yield and quality
- Production of honey, wax, and other products
- Potential competition with native pollinators
- Risk of spreading diseases and parasites to wild bee populations
- Increased need for hive management and maintenance
|Features||Honey Bees||Native Bees|
|Hive management||Needed||Not needed|
|Honey and beeswax production||Yes||No|
Bees offer various benefits to their ecosystems, balancing potential drawbacks with indispensable services to both the environment and agriculture. Their role in pollination, alongside challenges posed by predators and parasites, highlights their significance to the world.
Over the years, our website, whatsthatbug.com has received hundreds of letters and some interesting images asking us about these insects. Scroll down to have a look at some of them.
Letter 1 – Good News Bee Buzzes no more
Subject: Is this a bee?
Location: Ohio about 45 miles west from Pittsburgh PA
August 2, 2017 7:46 am
Hi we keep getting these and I think it’s a type of bee but not sure.
It hovers and buzzes really strangely and will even go silent then get really loud!
It can go from hovering to high speeds fast!
Thanks for your help,
Signature: Laura Evans
This is a harmless Yellowjacket Hover Fly or Good News Bee. We hope future encounters you have will not end with such Unnecessary Carnage. As an aside, our editorial staff hails from Youngstown, Ohio, just west of Pittsburgh.
Thank you! We thought it was going to sting our dog… now I feel bad. So glad to know because we have had one around us everyday for the last 2 weeks and we will welcome them now! ️
Letter 2 – Good News Bee Carnage
Location: graham, nc
December 10, 2016 2:42 pm
I live in Graham, NC and saw these HUGE hornets at my new house in the country. They were swarming around the cable box, but I never saw any nest. They didn’t seem too aggressive, but sadly one had to go once it got in the house. Should I be worried about this one?
Though it resembles a Hornet, this Good News Bee is actually a Yellow Jacket Hover Fly, a harmless insect that does a very good job of mimicking a stinging insect. Now that you know it is harmless, we hope you attempt to relocate any additional Good News Bees that enter your home. An upturned glass and a postcard are great tools for the relocation process. Since they are considered not only harmless but beneficial, since adult Good News Bees are pollinators and larvae eat destructive insects in the garden like Aphids, we are tagging this posting with Unnecessary Carnage in our continuing efforts to educate the web browsing public to the benefits of the lower beasts.
Thank you! Ugh, I feel terrible now that this one was killed, but I will be better to them in the future. How can you tell easily that this belongs to hover flies?
Flies belong to the order Diptera, which according to BugGuide is: “Greek ‘two-winged’ (the name dates back to Aristotle, who noted the difference from typical four-winged insects.” Flies have only one pair of wings while most insects have two pairs of wings.