Bee Question and Answers

Below are some of the most frequently asked questions received from our Bayer Bee Care Program outreach. How many questions can you answer correctly? Try it and check your score at the end.

Which types of bees sting?

The bee stinger is a modified ovipositor (organ used for laying eggs), so only female bees are capable of stinging. Males do not have stingers. Some of the best-known types of (female) bees – honey bees and bumblebees – have the ability to sting. However, it’s important to note that bees sting mainly for defense, such as to protect their hives, or if they are stepped on or aggravated. When bees are foraging away from the hive, they are focused on collecting pollen or nectar and are not aggressive. Most native bees don’t live in colonies, so they have no hive to protect and are not likely to sting. Often people confuse wasps or yellow jackets, which are more aggressive, with bees. In an EcoMyths video posted on the Internet, Chicago Botanic Garden’s Rebecca Tonietto discusses bees and stinging.

Do bees die after they sting?

Honey bee stingers have fishhook-like barbs. Once the stinger is embedded in your skin, it cannot be removed easily, so when the bee pulls away, organs attached to the stinger get left behind, and the bee soon dies. As a result, a honey bee can only sting once. Other bees have smooth stingers with no barbs, so they are capable of stinging multiple times.

What’s the best way to remove unwanted bees, such as those in the walls of my house?

A honey bee colony sometimes will establish a new nest in the wall voids of a home, or another unwelcome location. When this happens, it can be difficult to remove the colony, wax and honey, but every attempt should be made to do so because the bees may be a hazard for stings, and the nest material can be a source of secondary infestations of beetles, wax moths, mice, and other animals. The American Beekeeping Federation (ABF) suggests contacting a local beekeeper or beekeeper club to ask for help. Some beekeepers are very skilled at removal and relocation of honey bee colonies. To find a beekeeper, the ABF suggest looking in the phone book yellow pages or on Google; contacting a local County Extension agent; or asking the local fire or police department. For more detailed instructions for removing bees, check out the Southeastern Michigan Beekeepers Association website.

What should I do about carpenter bees around my home?

Large carpenter bees (genus Xylocopa) are large, black and yellow bees that are seen in the spring through summer hovering around the eve of a house or other areas. They do not eat wood, but drill half-inch diameter holes in wood to make nests. Carpenter bees emerge in April or May to gather pollen and nectar to feed their brood, and male bees hover around the nest at this time. Males may act aggressive, flying into people who are close by; however, male carpenter bees do not have a stinger, and female bees rarely sting, unless provoked. Carpenter bees don’t cause serious structural damage to wood, unless large numbers of bees tunnel into wood over a period of many years. In addition, because carpenter bees are beneficial insects and help to pollinate many of the flowers and edible plants in home gardens, it is preferable to find a way to discourage them from nesting in a house or deck, without harming them. Carpenter bees prefer untreated, unfinished wood. Thus, susceptible exterior parts of a home should be constructed of hardwoods, or painted or varnished, so that they are less attractive to bees, according to the University of California Agriculture & Natural Resources IPM (Integrated Pest Management) website. For holes that already exist, the site suggests filling unoccupied holes with steel wool and caulk, and then painting or varnishing the surface, to prevent bees from reusing the holes.

How can I avoid getting stung by a bee?

  1. Avoid getting close to honey bee, bumble bee or wasp nests.
  2. If approached by aggressive bees or wasps stay calm, but move away from area quickly. If available, move inside a vehicle or building.
  3. If bee(s) get caught in your hair, try to isolate the bee(s) with a gloved or cloth-covered hand and quickly pinch or crush them before they can sting you. Do not do yourself harm by hitting at your own head or body.
  4. If stinging occurs, still remain calm, but move away from area quickly. If available, move inside a vehicle or building.
  5. In a vehicle, turn the A/C on full blast and lower 1-2 windows about ½ to 3/4 inch. Any bees in the vehicle will leave quickly.
  6. Use first-aid methods to treat stings and seek emergency medical care if there are symptoms other than a local reaction.

How many did you get right? Check your answers and score 1 point for each correct answer.

4-5 points = Queen Bee – Have you ever considered a hobby or career in beekeeping?
2-3 points = Worker Bee – Brush up on your bee facts to bee-come an expert.
0-1 points = Baby Bee – You’re sweet as honey, but have a lot to learn!

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