Stinger- by Sarah Gabric


 Located in the last abdominal segment, measuring about 1/8th of an inch, generally believed to be a modified ovipositor (egg-laying organ) is the stinger. The stinger, like the proboscis, in not one organ, but the combination of several. Within the female bee’s abdomen, (drones don’t have stingers) venom glands produce venom, shuttle it through a venom duct and into the venom sac where it meets a structure called the bulb. Attached posteriorly to the bulb is a stylet, (think of a micro-needle), surrounded by two curved lancets (think of serrated saw blades). When the bee detects a target, she wishes to sting, the lancets rapidly begin advancing in an alternating fashion to create a cavity into which the stylet is thrust and venom is immediately pumped.


Honey bee venom is the product of numerous compounds, proteins and peptides collectively referred to as apitoxin. To get that potent cocktail into her victim the honey bee must employ 22 muscles and bend her body almost in half so that her stinger is practically parallel with her thorax. When a worker honey bee stings, her stinger, which is barbed, becomes anchored in the skin of the stung. If she tries to fly away her lower abdomen, sting apparatus and the posterior end of her digestive system are ripped from her body. Thus eviscerated, she dies shortly thereafter. Honey bee queens’ stingers are sleeker, longer, and more firmly attached than workers.  With her smooth stiletto the queen may sting, usually rival sister queens, multiple times without harming herself.


When a honey bee stings, she also marks the victim with an alarm pheromone produced in her Koschevnikov gland. This pheromone is composed of about 20 compounds, the most volatile of which isopentyl acetate, is of same chemical composition as banana oil. Perhaps you have noticed that aggravated bees smell like bananas? Or heard its not a great idea to eat a banana right before working a hive? That’s because the pheromones, especially when deposited on you, send a loud and clear message to the rest of the colony: that you are an intruder, and they should act accordingly.