They buzz, they sting, they build hives, and they make honey — these are all basic facts that most people know about bees. The other things you think you know about bees, however, might not actually be true. For some reason, these buzzing little creatures seem to have developed a following of misconceptions. Here are a few of them.
1. Bees Want to Sting You
Are you the kind of person who sees a bee, and then cowers away in fear because you don’t want to be stung? Here’s the good news: bees do not make it their mission to sting you. If you encounter a random bee out in a field or the woods, just buzzing about and pollinating flowers, it’s not going to come after you. Neither is a bee who lands on your plate or glass.
Bees really only sting in an effort to protect their hive or colony. If you leave them alone, they will leave you alone.
2. All Yellow and Black Striped Insects Are Bees
If you see a yellow-and-black striped insect, you probably assume it is a bee, but wasps also have similar coloring. Technically, bees are pollinators, while wasps are not — and both hornets and yellow jackets are part of the wasp family.
European hornets are about an inch long and build brown, paper-like nests in trees. Yellow jackets are about 5/8 inch long with smooth, yellow and black bodies. They build nests in logs, shrubs, garages, and sheds.
The easiest way to tell the difference between bees and these other insects is by examining the texture of their bodies. Bees are furry. Yellow jackets and European hornets have smooth bodies. Since these different insects call for different means of removal, being able to distinguish between them is helpful.
3. Bees Always Die After Stinging
Is every sting really a suicide mission for a bee? Well, that depends on the bee. Honey bees do typically die when they sting because they have barbed stingers that get caught in the skin of the animal or human they sting. When they fly away, their stinger rips out, which kills them.
Bumblebees and carpenter bees, however, have smooth stingers, which means they survive a sting and live to sting again and again. Wasps and hornets can sting multiple times, too.
4. Swarms of Bees Are Getting Ready to Attack
Movies have probably perpetuated this myth. The character sees a swarm of bees and flees in the opposite direction to avoid being stung multiple times.
In reality, however, bees don’t swarm because they are getting ready to attack you. Bees swarm when they move off in a group to establish a new colony. And in most cases, honeybees feed right before they swarm, which makes them less able to sting, even if they wanted to.
You may see a swarm of bees gathered around a tree branch or other structure in the spring; just leave them alone and admire them from a distance.
5. Africanized Honey Bees Are a Dangerous Concern Across the U.S.
Perhaps you remember learning about Africanized bees, or killer bees, in school as a kid. These bees look like European honeybees, but they are much more aggressive, and they tend to sting in large numbers.
Although these bees do exist, they are not as much of a concern as the media may have you think. They do not live in Virginia at all, so you can breathe easy. They’re mostly found in Arizona, California, Texas, Nevada, and New Mexico — and although they are more aggressive, their venom is no stronger than that of the average honeybee.
Now that you know a little more about bees, you should feel better prepared when you do encounter these insects or their nests. If you do find a bee nest on your property, contact Exterminating Unlimited, Inc. We have the knowledge and equipment to deal with bees — and other stinging insects — safely.