Can Bees Smell Fear – Bees & Beekeeping Information

bee modeling

Bees are incredible creatures. They are the world's greatest pollinator. Their venom, called apitoxin, is powerful and deadly. Apitoxin is so powerful that drop by drop, it's more lethal than rattlesnake venom. While apitoxin is deadly, this venom can also help relieve symptoms of multiple sclerosis and arthritis. In fact, bee sting therapy has been practiced for years. Apitoxin has even been proven to kill the HIV virus.

Bees are fascinating for more than just their venom though. Studies have shown that bees understand and perform mathematics, and they think in the sixth dimension. Bees can even clone themselves. Bees are not only smart and powerful, but they're determined too. A hive of bees will travel 50,000 miles, visiting 2,000,000 flowers to make one pound of honey. It's clear that bees have an array of skills, but can bees smell fear? Read on to find out if bees can smell fear and to learn about the fascinating sense of smell that bees use to survive.

Bee Sense of Smell

How Do Bees Use Their Sense of Smell?

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Before understanding if bees can smell fear, it's important to understand how bees use their sense of smell. Do they even have one? Yes. Bees have a sense of smell, and it works really well. Bees have such a good sense of smell; they can be trained to sniff out danger. Bees can be trained to find disease, drugs, and other things through their sense of smell. In Croatia, honeybees have even been trained to find landmines using their sense of smell. Not only can bees be trained to use their sense of smell to find things, but while it takes months to train a dog, it only takes hours to train a bee.

Bees don't only use their sense of smell when they're trained to do so. Bees naturally use their sense of smell as a prominent key in protecting their hives. Bees also use their sense of smell to communicate with each other and to call for help. It's clear that bees have a sense of smell and use it frequently, but when it comes to whether bees can smell fear or not, the answer can get complicated.

Bees Smell Fear

Can Bees Smell Fear?

smell fear

Can bees smell fear? You've probably heard the expression “bees can smell fear,” especially if you're someone who swats and moves erratically in the presence of bees. This expression probably stems from the fact that bees use their sense of smell to survive. This sense of smell is especially vital for hive defense.

While smell plays a huge role in hive defense, the odor that bees are smelling isn't fear. Bees can't smell fear, and the reason for that is that fear is an emotion. Fear is an internal response that can't be smelled. While this is true, there is a reason it's commonly thought bees smell fear. Read on for what that is and for the fascinating ways in which bees use their sense of smell in the next sections.

Odor And Hive Defense

Odor And Hive Defense

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While bees don't literally smell fear, they do use their sense of smell to protect their hives. When a human or other animal approaches a beehive, they bring with them an odor different from that of a bee. When a bee smells this unfamiliar odor, it realizes that it's smelling something it's not used to. This means that an unfamiliar creature that isn't supposed to be around the hive, is. Since an unfamiliar creature can be a potential intruder and pose a threat to the hive, the bee's alarm response is set off.

The bee that smells the unfamiliar odor releases pheromones to let the other members of the hive know there is an unfamiliar presence. This causes a chain reaction, and as the other bees smell this pheromone release and understand that it's an alert response, they release more pheromones. The release of more pheromones lets all the members of the hive know about the potential danger. This pheromone release leads all the bees to the intruder, with their defenses up.

Does The Pheromone Release Always Lead To An Attack?

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While the answer to the question “can bees smell fear,” may be no, the pheromone release started by the unfamiliar odor does put the bees in defense mode. But, this doesn't necessarily mean they will attack the intruder. When the members of the hive are alerted of an intruder through the release of pheromones, their priority is to protect the hive. If the bees can protect the hive without attacking, they focus on doing so. After all, if a honeybee stings an intruder, it loses its life. When a honeybee stings an intruder, it can't pull its stinger back out, so it leaves it behind along with the bee's venom sack and surrounding muscles. Since they have to give up their lives to sting, for a honeybee, attacking isn't the first line of defense.

When Does an Unfamiliar Odor Cause An Attack?

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When bees face an unfamiliar odor or an intruder, they don't want to attack right away. While they don't want to attack immediately, the bees defensive behavior might instill fear in the intruder. This fear can cause the intruder to act strangely. In humans, the fear of a nearby bee can cause a person to run around, or slap at the bee in order to avoid it. Bees are extremely sensitive to behavior, so when an intruder is behaving strangely, they can sense that immediately.

When a bee senses that an intruder is acting strangely, it is more likely to think there is something wrong, and that is when the bee starts an attack. This can happen with all different species of bees. Attacks caused by strange behavior can also happen regardless of whether or not the intruder is near a hive. Even if a bee doesn't have a hive to protect, it is possible it will attack, if it feels that a person or other animal is behaving strangely.

Bee Attacks

What About When A Bee Attacks?

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Of course, bees do actually attack sometimes. When a bee attacks, a process similar to that of a bee protecting its hive, occurs. Since bees communicate partly through smell, bees use their sense of smell to help protect other bees when they sting. When a bee stings, it also releases alert pheromones letting nearby bees know that it's in danger. This pheromone release attracts more bees, and puts them in a defensive behavior. This can cause one sting to turn into two or more. Sometimes, this pheromone release that attracts more bees, can be so powerful that it attracts a dangerous swarm of bees.

Why Are We Told Bees Can Smell Fear?

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If bees can't smell fear, why is it such a common misconception? Bees are very smart creatures, and humans interact with them frequently. Since bees usually attack people who are afraid, it's easy to see why people would think bees can smell fear. Bees are provoked by people or animals that slap at them, move erratically, make uncomfortable movements around them, or act strangely in any way. This strange behavior is usually associated with fear. You now know bees can't actually smell fear, but they can sense the strange behavior that is caused by fear. Even though bees can't smell fear, the expression can still serve as a helpful lesson. Even though bees can't smell fear, they can certainly sense it.

Act Around Bees

How To Act Around Bees

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When you're around a bee, it's best to remind yourself to not show fear and to stay calm. If a bee is buzzing around you, stay still and try your best to ignore it. Bees are attracted to humans because of the unfamiliar odor we produce, not because they can smell fear, and once a bee knows you're not a threat, it will leave you alone. If you express fear, the bee will pick up on the strange behavior, and become aggravated and defensive. You want to avoid this as much as you can, so that the bee doesn't release pheromones and attract more bees!

The Truth About Bees And Their Sense of Smell

sense of smell

Bees have an astonishing sense of smell. Add that sense of smell to their other attributes, like powerful venom and learning abilities, and you have a really extraordinary creature. To live simultaneously with bees, it's important to understand them, and now you understand how they use their sense of smell. These extraordinary creatures use their sense of smell to communicate, protect their hives, send out signals of distress and can even use their sense of smell to sniff out danger. Whether this danger is drugs or intruders, bees can find it, simply by smelling. While bees use their sense of smell to stay safe daily, the true answer to “can bees smell fear?” is no. Bees can't smell fear, but they will sense it so when you're in the presence of a bee, it's been proven that your best course of action is to stay calm and fearless.


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