European Honeybee

The humble European Honeybee. We introduced these guys because we like their tasty honey. We farm them and they’re awesome. Honey is an incredible product. Bees make it so that they can eat it as a concentrated sugar food when they need it, and it’s remarkably long lasting and useful so we steal it. In fact, it’s so well preserved that sealed honey jars from thousands of years ago containing perfectly edible honey were apparently found in the great Pyramids. Part of the reason for this preservation is that for all its sugary goodness, honey contains almost no water whatsoever, making it hard for bacteria to grow.

Honey can also be used as an effective natural remedy for some skin infections. Because of its “smothering” nature and anti-bacterial properties it is an excellent cover for skin lesions such as bedsores and skin ulcers.

Some people are scared of bees, but with little reason. They rarely sting. When a bee stings, their barbed stinger will hook into the skin, and as the bee pulls clear it leaves behind its venom gland. This process also tears out a whole bunch of muscle, nerves, and digestive tract from the bee, which will now die. So it’s not like they do it for fun. Bees are non-aggressive and will not seek to sting people, they’re just looking for flowers.

With all that said… They’re lethal.

Honeybees kill more people in Australia than any other animal. In fact, honeybees kill more people in Australia than snakes, spiders, centipedes, and scorpions combined. (Admittedly those last three don’t kill anyone at all, so I’m cheating a bit, I could add bunyips and elephants and have the same number.)

When a bee stings a person it will die. But it will also release a pheromone that marks the victim as a threat, and triggers other bees to sting. This is not good. The pheromone doesn’t wash off for a long time, so running away is about the only option.

About 3% of people have immune systems that experience bee venom for the first time and then make some poor decisions. The immune system decides that if this terrible stuff is encountered again, it’s going to go ape shit, swell up the throat and suffocate or drop the blood pressure so low the body into cardiac arrest. As both breathing and heart function are considered more of a need than a want, this is an extremely serious condition, known as anaphylaxis. Anaphylaxis can be fatal, and allergy to bees, as well as other insect bites or stings is a serious problem. Anaphylactic reactions to peanuts, tree nuts, seafood and other foods are relatively common causes of death.

Bee, Honey Bee
Apis mellifera