Rare photo of honeybee leaving its stinger behind


35 Responses to “Rare photo of honeybee leaving its stinger behind”

  1. Incredible picture, Kathy!  I don’t want to be your friend though.

    • Gyrofrog says:

       In a subsequent event, she and her friend were walking down a city sidewalk.  She heard a tell-tale noise, like a slide whistle, which usually indicates a grand piano is falling out of a high window.  Sure enough, she saw a piano descending, and readied her camera, just in time to snap a photo as the piano flattened her friend.

      • bzishi says:

        Have you been reading The Far Side today?

      • This is the story behind the story about how I took the photo. The person being stung was Dr. Eric Mussen, Extension apiculturist with the UC Davis Department of Entomology. He’s a beekeeper. We were checking the hives at the apiary when the sting happened. Unexpected. Unplanned. I take many photos at the apiary. This was one of them.  http://ucanr.org/blogs/blogcore/postdetail.cfm?postnum=7735

    • This is the story behind the story about how I took the photo: http://ucanr.org/blogs/blogcore/postdetail.cfm?postnum=7735

  2. bcsizemo says:

    Moments after this picture was captured you could hear her friend saying, “I hate you.”

  3. Ian Wood says:


    • tré says:

      If bees understood that their attacks were kamikaze in nature, they would all back out at the last minute. And the world would be an infinitely better place.

      • chenille says:

        “No, though we are called on to give up everything, the price is not too high. For it is paid for our beloved queen, and the little grubs in the honeycomb – it is paid for the good of the hive. What bee, then, could ever give any less? Besides, we live like nine months anyway, and that’s only if we hibernate.”

        At least I think that was the translation. The dance gets a little confusing.

        • DevinC says:

          I happen to be fluent in Bee, and I think this is a more literal translation:

           “We few, we happy few, we band of sisters; 
           For she to-day that sheds her sting with me 
           Shall be my sister; be she ne’er so vile, 
           This day shall gentle her condition; 
           And the drones in the hive now-a-bed 
           Shall think themselves accurs’d they were not here, 
           And hold their dronehoods cheap whiles any speaks 
           That stung with us upon Saint Crispin’s day!”

  4. flickerKuu says:

    Such a rare picture that only a search for “bee stinging” on Google images could find another.
     Still a cool picture though.

  5. awjt says:

    Of course it’s the Sacramento Bee and not the Modesto Bee.

  6. Rider says:

    How is this a rare image?   It’s pretty damn easy to set up and get a picture of this.


  7. E T says:

    Who is more unfortunate – an unfortunate (but now immortalized) human or an unfortunate (but now immortalized) bee? The bee dies, the human get a sting.

  8. jaytkay says:


  9. Jason Baker says:

    I felt like I needed a unicorn chaser. Seeing the pain of that bee was just too much, to say nothing of the person.

    Then I envisioned a unicorn leaving its head-mounted “stinger” behind in someone, and suddenly, the unicorn chaser didn’t seem like such a great idea. Between this and the tarantula fungus, you’re really traumatizing the idea of animals with pointy appendages being a good thing.

  10. Seems like bees evolved all sorts of stupid.

    • Inventorjack says:

      Their stingers developed for defending their hives by stinging the rigid bodies of other bees and insects, not for stinging the stretchy skin of mammals. One bee can sting another bee/insect several times.

      • There’s also the matter of being killed during sex and being thrown out of the hive if you don’t have sex. Basically, you don’t want to be a bee.

      • zombiebob says:

        never thought of it that way, though I’ve never seen a bee sting anything not human. So are wasps just more bad ass in terms of their anatomy?

      • bkad says:

        What is the theory to explain why wasps and hornets don’t have this limitation? (I understand not everything has to confer and evolutionary benefit or cost.) 

        It is not as though honeybees don’t face mammalian threats to their hives. Black bears, for example, attack hives with alacrity. And also humans, though we’ve mostly moved to ‘animal husbandry’ with respect to honeybees, same as most everything else we eat.

        Though I will say I really don’t need to be stung multiple times by a bee to learn to leave bee hives alone.  I can be stung a half dozen times over years by completely different species, let alone different individual bees,  and still develop a generalized response to avoid things that look, or sound, like stinging insects in flight.

        • bkad says:

          My dad kept honeybees, though, so I know you can mess with hives if properly clothed and equipped.  But that’s different, because we controlled the encounter. Heck, we built the hive for the bees to live in. I have a much more apprehensive response if I encounter a hive when hiking. Tree-nesting insects don’t bother me as much as ground nesting insects, though. It is unlikely that I’m going to disturb an aerial nest by mistake. But those damned underground yellowjacket nests are just unfair. You’re a flying animal, for Pete’s sake. You should be in the sky. The ground is MY domain.

        • chenille says:

          I think Inventorjack is entirely wrong here.

          Honeybee stings have barbs, which increase the damage they do. This means they break off against mammals. However, they break off in just such a way that the glands go with it, and keep pumping autonomously for a long time.

          @zombiebob:disqus : Wasps (and some other bees, like bumblebees) don’t have the same kind of barbs. This lets them sting us more than once, but true, but it means their sting is physically weaker.

          @boingboing-e16a4ca71de93b9d1e35186e568d9fdf:disqus : This difference make a lot more sense if you consider fighting mammals than insects. Wasps are predatory, and have no trouble killing insects if they can sting them. They probably don’t have as much concern from mammals, though.

          On the other hand, honeybees have large colonies, with much more plentiful workers but also more alluring food stores, and so more threat from mammals. It really looks to me, then, that the upgraded sting is at least partly adapted for driving them off.

          After all, a worker is sacrificed because her sting breaks off, but this is precisely what enables it to continue injecting poison and do as much damage as possible. It seems hard to imagine that’s purely incidental to its function.

  11. Inventorjack says:

    This makes me sad. I love bees. They just don’t understand that unlike stinging another insect, stinging us means certain death :(

  12. BombBlastLightingWaltz says:

    someone call  my laywer… This is not just, but I alude too, like that high school thing that teacher did with the internet and the shouldnotof…..man having your ass takin out like that! Literally. No shit that bee don’t live.

  13. robcat2075 says:

     Fly all day, dance all night.  The bee life can’t end well.

  14. I find it hard to believe nobody’s yet thought to do super-slow-mo footage of that happening, for some nature documentary.

  15. bkad says:

    Or “Wha…. Oww! “

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