What Bees Bite – Bees & Beekeeping Information

bee on a flower

Bees are often maligned for being stinging nuisances, but many people do not realize that bees have another defensive option that is just as effective. According to zoologists, some bees can bite their quarry if faced with a dire situation and threat.

These "stingless" bees use their teeth and mandibles to injure their prey or induce paralysis through envenomation. To understand stingless bees, it is necessary to examine what bees bite in terms of species, and the prey they are most effective against.

face of a honeybee

What Bees Bite: A Species Overview

There is a variety of different species of bees throughout the world, with some estimates reaching as high as 20,000 unique types. Some bees are known for having massive stingers while others are believed to be non-aggressive.

However, new scientific discoveries suggest that there are several species of bees that rely upon biting for defensive and offensive applications.

Honeybees

Perhaps the most famous example of a bee that uses biting, is the common honeybee. Honey bees are usually noteworthy for their moderately aggressive use of stinging as a method of harming human beings, and other animals alike.

Yet, researchers have discovered that honeybees can also use a potent bite to paralyze and harm invaders to their colony. While honeybees are the most ordinary species that bites, it is not the only one.

Trigona Hyalinata

Another bee that uses a bite to harm its enemies is the Trigona hyalinata, a bee native to Brazil. Unlike the honeybee which is known for using its stinger, the Trigona hyalinata is a species that uses biting as a primary form of attack. The stinger of the Trigona hylinata is merely vestigial, and it is not used by the bee.

Instead, it has ten teeth that are arranged on its mandibles, allowing the bee to generate a powerful and very painful bite used to incapacitate and kill enemy bugs. Over a dozen other species of bees that are related to the Trigona species in Brazil, have been studied for their preference to bite their attackers rather than sting them.

Xylocopa

Xylocopa bees are another species that prefers its bite as the primary means of defending their colony. These bees are commonly known as the carpenter bee. Although these bees are mostly concerned with the building and upkeep of their massive hives and colonies, they must also have the ability to defend themselves.

Male carpenter bees do not even have a stinger, and their bite is the only means of attack. Females, on the other hand, have a stinger and the ability to bite.

honeybees in a hive

Do Bees Bite Human Beings?

Yes, there are indeed records of humans bitten by bees. While bee bites are something that can be seen as harmful, the fact is that the recent discovery of honeybee bites and venom may hold benefits for human beings.

illustration of beekeeper surrounded by bees

Using Bites For Human Benefit

When researching what bees bite, zoologists found that honeybees have a unique bite. Not only do they cause pain to their victims, but the bites also cause temporary paralysis.

The mechanism that creates this paralysis comes from a low toxicity anesthetic that is known as 2-heptanone. While the bees use the 2-heptanone, also known as 2-H, for chemical marking, an alarm response and numbness, only the final reason is beneficial for humans.

The 2-heptanone substance can cause local numbness, allowing it to be developed into a local anesthetic. With more development and research, it is possible that the 2-heptanone can be made into medicine that could be used for mammals that need to have a lighter anesthetic. This could be a replacement for other local anesthetics to which people have allergies.

Bee Awareness

While it may be concerning to some that bees can bite and sting them, humans are not likely victims of bee bites. Even the most aggressive forms of bees that have been investigated here are not as harmful as those bees that sting.

What bees bite often depends on the threat that faces the hive or colony. Overall, it is important to remember that bees want to build their hive more than they want to attack others. Keeping one's distance and respecting the hive is an important step towards bee safety.

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