Have bumblebees spines

Can bumblebees sting?

Female bumblebees have a stinger and are ready to use it. Thanks to their gentle nature, however, they use their sting much less frequently than honey bees or wasps. All representatives of the always fluffy, but differently colored 36 bumblebee species that are widespread in Germany have this property in common. Although all bumblebees belong to the family of real bees, their sting differs from that of the honey bee in one point: the barb is missing. This prevents the stinger from getting stuck in the skin and the bumblebees can use it again. As a rule, however, they only sting when their life or the continued existence of their people is directly threatened.

A wink from the bumblebee

A bumblebee rarely stings unannounced. She always warns her attacker according to a fixed scheme: First, she stretches one of her middle legs threateningly into the air. In the second warning level, she throws herself on her back with a loud hum and stretches her spiked rear end towards the attacker. What should look like an impressive threatening gesture also fulfills an important physical function: In contrast to the honeybee, the bumblebee's stinging apparatus is only weakly developed and is not easily able to penetrate the attacker's skin with the sting. That is why the bumblebee always needs a solid base on which to support its body.

However, the sting of both groups of insects has very similar effects: it is extremely painful and causes the skin around the puncture site to swell within a few minutes. This swelling usually subsides after 24 hours. In the case of allergy sufferers, however, the consequences are much more severe: skin rashes all over the body, nausea and even palpitations and shortness of breath can occur. However, only those who have already stung bumblebees, bees and co. At least twice can reliably judge whether they are overly sensitive or not. Because the first bite causes the immune system to develop antibodies against certain components of the poison in up to five percent of the population. However, these antibodies only prove to be problematic in terms of an allergic reaction with the second bite.

Beware of cross-reactivity!

The fact that bumblebees and honey bees are so closely related can prove extremely unfavorable for allergy sufferers: their poison contains very similar peptides and proteins. This leads to a phenomenon that the allergist calls cross-reactivity: A scientific study found that 75 percent of people who are hypersensitive to honeybee venom are also allergic to bumblebee venom. An allergy to a protein found exclusively in bumblebee venom is possible, but it is very rare. Accordingly, you can suffer an excessive immune reaction even with your very first bumblebee sting, if you have already made the acquaintance of a honeybee's sting.

What else the bumblebee is good for

Bumblebee venom allergy is seldom a problem for ordinary people. In the bumblebee beekeeping profession, however, this intolerance can quickly lead to incapacity for work. Since in the mid-1980s a resourceful Dutch entomologist came up with the idea of ‚Äč‚Äčrelocating a bumblebee colony to a greenhouse to pollinate crops, the earth bumblebee in particular has been big in business. It is only thanks to her that tomatoes and peppers are so cheap in this country. It turned out that bumblebees not only thrive much better under greenhouse conditions, but are also much more effective than honeybees on certain plants: Originally, tomato plants in greenhouses had to be pollinated by hand using electrical devices. This is what bumblebees take over. As masters of the so-called vibration pollination, the peoples of the earth bumblebee and other bumblebee species are sent in the millions all over the world today.