Honey bees are so interesting and complex, there’s always more to learn about them. While there are other kinds of bees, which operate by different rules, here, we’ll go over a few more great bits of trivia about honey bees.
Since pretty much all the honey bees we ever run across are female, it’s not widely known that only female honey bees have stingers. The stinger itself is a modified egg-laying organ. Because non-queen honey bees are sterile, they have no need to lay eggs, and so it became a barbed, venom-injecting defense mechanism. And yes, honey bees do die after stinging a human, because the barbed stinger gets stuck so solidly in human skin that it quickly disembowels the bee, but scientists don’t think bees sting knowing that it will kill them.
Meanwhile, the male drone honey bees stay in the hive and mate with the queen. But don’t think this means they have an easy life! In fact, they only get to mate once. According to the UC Berkley Urban Bee Lab, male honey bees die after mating because “the genitalia…pops out explosively at mating…paralyzing and killing them.”
Among other reasons it’s good to be the queen, scientists have found that queen bees can select the sex of their offspring. Not only can the queen choose to lay a fertilized (female) or unfertilized (male) egg, she will only lay a male egg in a cell that is large enough for the larger male larva. Scientists have also seen that queens try to keep their colony at a specific gender balance.