As indifferent as beekeepers may seem to a few stings we feel the pain nonetheless as anyone might, a red-hot needle being the usual description. But we often feel an additional pain of knowing that because of insufficient attention or delicacy in the handling of our charges we have induced one to sacrifice her life to bring our faults to our notice.
A worker’s sting has a barb with which it resists removal from the target. When the bee flies off after stinging, she eviscerates herself as the barb and its the poison sac remain behind, continuing to pump toxin until scraped off. She will die. Kathy Keatley Garvey, a communications specialist in the UC Davis Department of Entomology, has obtained a picture of this painful event occurring. The story may be found here. Clicking on the picture in the story will bring up a very large version of the photograph. It is a remarkable sight.
But to return to the guilt over the death of a stinging bee, perhaps the fable of The Bee and Jupiter should ease it a bit. No. It just proves that Aesop was not a beekeeper.