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A weekly show where we endeavor to answer one of your big questions. This week, Leovigildo Santos asks, "Why do bees die after they sting you?"
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Hi, I'm Craig, my mom thinks I'm bee-utiful, I die when I sting you, and also, I am buzzed right now, and this is Mental Floss on YouTube. Today, I'm going to answer Leovigildo's big question: Why do bees die when they sting you?

So, not all bees do this. Duh, guys. I'm going to tell you which ones do. Let's get started. Bzz.

[Mental Floss opening theme]

Hi. How are ya? How ya doing? Bees that sting you and then die are honey bees, and they're always female because males don't have stingers. That's because the stinger is actually an ovipositor, an organ that female insects have for depositing eggs. I have a refrigerator for depositing eggs, and I die every time.

In addition to being an ovipositor, the honey bee stinger is barbed. It has little hook-like things all over it so once it's inside you it's kind of stuck there as if it's been screwed into your skin. That's lovely.

When they honey bee's ready to fly away, it tries to pull out its stinger, which gets caught, so instead, the bee's forced to leave behind along with muscles, glands, a venom sac, and part of its digestive tract, and that's a great way to lose weight, and life, because that's why it dies.

Fun fact: When an animal does a form of self-amputating like this, it's called autotomizing.

So, basically, if you thought it was bad that you got stung by a bee, nope, it's worse. You got bee guts all over you. And make sure to remove the stinger if you get stung, because that venom sac that the bee left behind is not a good thing to have on your skin. If someone offers you a venom sac, you say no.

This is only the case when honey bees sting humans, by the way. If they happen to sting an animal or insect with thinner skin than human skin, they're strong enough to pull out their stingers and move on with their lives.

If you think that female honey bees get the bad end of the deal here, it turns out that the life of a male honey bee, or drone, isn't that good, either. I mean, they're called drones. Doesn't sound good. They pretty much exist to mate with the queen. That doesn't sound bad. When one of them does, part of his genitalia gets ripped off in the process. [pause] That's bad. Oh, there's more. Then, his abdomen gets ripped open and he dies.

Speaking of the queen bee, she doesn't have a barbed stinger. Hers is smooth, which means she could sting people multiple times without dying, but she doesn't ever leave the hive after mating. She only gets the chance to use her stinger when she's trying to assert dominance over another queen.

But that's just honey bees. Bumble bees, solitary bees, and wasps are able to pull their stingers out after stinging humans. Also, Sting is able to, and he has many times, I'm told.

Thanks for watching Mental Floss on YouTube, which is made with the help of these honey bees. If you have a big question of your own that you'd like answered, leave it below in the comments. See you next week.

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