To Sting or Not to Sting

When we think of bees, we imagine their fearsome stingers—but not all bees sting! Let’s take a look at our not-so-sharp buzzing buddies.

1. All male bees – A stinger is a modified version of the egg-laying part of a female bee’s body, called the ovipositor. Since males were never meant to lay eggs, they never evolved a stinger.

Despite not being able to sting, many male bees exhibit a sting-based behavior. When grabbed, they buzz loudly and curl the end of their abdomen toward the hand holding them. This mimics a female’s stinging position, but only the fuzzy male bee butt makes contact. Still, the behavior is scary enough that even experienced bee handlers often let go!


2. Stingless bees –Meloponines, or stingless honeybees, are a group of approximately 500 species that live in tropical and subtropical zones. Stingless is a bit of a misnomer – female bees have stingers, but they are so tiny, they cannot even pierce human skin. They can bite, though, and will pinch away at your forehead with their tiny jaws if you try to steal their honey!

Fairy bees (Perdita) and other mining bees in the Andrenidae family lack the valve in the stinger that pumps venom, rendering their stingers effectively stingless. Not to be outdone, the Dioxyini, a group of cleptoparasitic bees that lay their eggs in the nests of other bees, have the most reduced stingers of all!

3. Most bees, most of the time – Bees only use their stingers when in danger. No need to fear around bees. Just move slowly, watch your step, and everyone will leave sting-free.

Bee-ting the Heat

It’s easy for bees to get all hot and bothered. Flying takes a lot of work! To flex those wing muscles, bees convert chemical energy to mechanical work.

Insect flight can require metabolic rates up to 500x resting rates, so a lot of heat can be produced very quickly. To keep from feeling the burn, bees can do a few cool things to beat the heat.

  1. They mouth off.

Honeybees regurgitate nectar and spread it over the long surface of their tongues, extending it over and over. This behavior, called tongue-lashing, increases evaporative heat loss – similar to dogs panting.

2. They go against the flow.

Some species of bumblebees and carpenter bees have a loop that circulates hemolymph (bug blood) from the thorax to the abdomen and back. At high temperatures, these bees can alternate the flow so that it only goes in one direction at a time. This allows hot hemolymph from the thorax to be cooled by the wind across the large abdominal surface; then the flow to the thorax is turned back on and all that cooled hemolymph goes to the flight muscles.


  1. They let it go to their heads. Some species of carpenter bees will direct super-heated blood to their broad, flat heads; when the wind contacts the large surface, it blows lots of the heat away.


That’s not all! Some studies on pallid bees, orchid bees, and honeybees suggest they might be able to reduce their metabolic heat production by decreasing how frequently they […]

Bringing Home the Honey

Honey bees have been making honey for millions of years, providing some of the earliest relief for humanity’s sweet tooth. But how is honey made?

While honey bees may be the most famous honey makers, some wasps and other bees make honey, too. Even some ants take to storing nectar–“honeypots” store nectar inside their distended abdomens. These ladies have so much junk in their trunks, they can barely even walk!

Written by Meghan Barrett and illustrated by Buzz. Barrett is currently a Biology PhD student at Drexel University, studying an expanded version of “bug brains.” When not fawning over native bees as part of her Bee Bytes initiative (byte-sized introductions to the bees of the US), she spends her time writing ecological poetry and science plays (or dabbling in #scicomm). More about her work can be found at; you can find her on Twitter (@Bee_Bytes).


Check our facts!

Anderson C, Ratnieks F (1999). Worker allocation in insect societies: coordination of nectar foragers and nectar receivers in honey bee (Apis mellifera) colonies. Behavioral Ecology and Sociobiology, 46, 73-81.

Ribbands CR (1953). The behavior and social life of honeybees. Bee Research Association, London.


Hunka hunka burnin’ bees

Bees aren’t ALWAYS trying to chill out–they’re busy! Here are a few reasons our honeybee sisters might need to get warm quick.

Protect the hive!

Beat the freeze!

To stay warm in the winter, worker bees pack in tightly around the queen and shiver their flight muscles.

As bees near the inside of the huddle get too hot, they move outward, allowing the layers of colder bees that served as insulation at the cluster’s edge to get warm.

Stay healthy!

Sometimes “chalkbrood” spores infect a hive’s bee larvae, turning them into white lumps that look like … well, chalk. If bee larvae are infected with chalkbrood, the whole colony will give itself a fever. To stay well, workers heat up the brood combs, preventing the spores from developing inside the larvaes’ guts.

Written by Meghan Barrett and illustrated by Keren Albala.

Barrett is currently a Biology PhD student at Drexel University, studying an expanded version of “bug brains.” When not fawning over native bees as part of her Bee Bytes initiative (byte-sized introductions to the bees of the US), she spends her time writing ecological poetry and science plays (or dabbling in #scicomm). More about her work can be found at; you can find her on Twitter (@Bee_Bytes).

Albala is an animator, illustrator and VFX artist working in Los Angeles, CA. She has created animated content for museums, science programs and documentaries, as well as 3D previsualization for Disney, Marvel and Universal feature films. Currently she divides her time between animating, teaching, playing in a ukulele orchestra, exploring the natural world, and jumping into leaf piles […]

2018 Taxonomy Pun Contest Winners!

Happy Taxonomist Appreciation Day! Announcing Our First 5th Annual Pun Contest Winner!

Happy week of Taxonomist Appreciation Day! Years ago, California State University Dominguez Hills’s Associate Professor of Biology Terry McGlynn minted the day to call attention to the extraordinary and often-overlooked services taxonomists provide to all of us. Buzz Hoot Roar honors our systematists and taxonomists with a pun competition. For our fifth year, we had dozens of top-rate punsters and some of our all-time favorite puns. With the help of our judges, we selected five favorites, and will share one with you each day this week.

This year, we had three very special celebrity guest judges: Clinton ColmenaresNatalie Sopinka, and Neil McCoy (Learn more about them below.)


Drumroll, please… Announcing Friday’s winner! Pun and illustration by Cory Bryant (@Brantromyzon), a postdoctoral Great Lakes researcher who loves to communicate science through art and stories.

Thursday’s winner, Raymond Nakamura (@raymondsbrain), has got us covered:

Wednesday’s winner, Christina Madlinger (@C_Madlinger), empowers manta rays everywhere:

What did the stingray say when her husband was unfaithful?

Tuesday’s winner Mustelid tell you something! Way to go, Quinn Burrell (@Quinnidae)!

Here is Monday’s winner. Congratulations, Stephanie Januchowski-Hartley (@connectedwaters)!

Learn more about our awesome celebrity guest judges!

Natalie Sopinka is a communicator of science at Canadian Science Publishing. She is a fish biologist by training, lover of […]

The heat is killing me. No, really.

Without a doubt, these heat waves and air pollution are killing us.

The World Health Organization estimates that our crazy climate change weather trends over the past 30 years kill more than 150,000 people each year.

A climate change-related heat wave in 2003 killed nearly 70,000 people in Europe alone. That’s bad news, as historically hot summers are becoming an annual norm for most of us.

Even the poor cows make less milk.

The mercury seesaw also may be pushing us over the mental edge, as hotter days wreak havoc on our identities and livelihoods.

Ocean oscillations like El Niño can lead to cooler years and mask global warming, but don’t be fooled: The warming trend and increasing extreme weather persists.

When people dump greenhouse gases like carbon dioxide, methane, and water vapor in the atmosphere, they trap heat and the planet feels the burn. More ocean water evaporates, and monster storms pour down. At the same time, evaporation, early snow melt, and more lead to drought. Crops drown or burn. Even lizards bake toward extinction.

Get a popsicle. Maybe take a walk. But try […]

Recluse or Not? Citizen science with SPIDERS!

Though many of us believe brown recluse spiders lurk in every crevice and unoccupied shoe, ready to chomp down at a moment’s notice, most evidence suggests it doesn’t happen that often. But who could blame us for feeling concerned? We may even be genetically predisposed to fear spiders. Our fear doesn’t bode well for spiders, who–regardless of whether they’re helpful or harmful–often find themselves at the wrong end of our shoe.

Fortunately, there’s a new citizen science project, Recluse or Not, that aims to help reveal what’s actually lurking in our crevices while at the same time clear the brown recluse’s bad rap.

If you think you see a brown recluse spider, snap a pic and tweet it to @RecluseOrNot. There, one of three entomological experts: Matt Bertone (@bertonemyia), Catherine Scott (@Cataranea), and Eleanor Spicer Rice (@VerdantEleanor) will take a look and let you know if you’ve got a brown recluse. If you do, let them know your location and they’ll record it to improve scientists’ understanding of where brown recluses are hanging out these days. There will be quizzes with prizes! There will be useful and interesting spider information! Something for everyone!

To celebrate, enjoy this handy how-to on safely catching and releasing spiders by Jamie Van Wart.

Please visit Catherine Scott’s awesome blog to learn more about the project.

By Roar.

Art by Jaime Van Wart who is a graphic designer and illustrator based in Los Angeles. Previously a User Experience Designer at IBM, Jaime recently graduated from CalArts with an MFA in Graphic Design and is currently working as an Art Director at Blind. See her work here and follow her on Twitter @meatballshorti.

The final 2017 winner!

And our last winning submission for this year’s Taxonomy Day Pun Contest! The pun’s by @phishdoc!


Special thanks again to our expert judges for picking the punniest puns this year! Their job was a tough one. The competition was steep!

Our judges:

James Hutson (@jameshutson) is a visual science communications specialist who explains all manner of things with award-winning, animated and narrated explainer videos, illustrations and infographics (

Christine Nishiyama (@might_could) is an illustrator and writer working out of Atlanta. She lends her approachable, charming style to picture books, graphic novels, and comics. She also writes essays and teaches courses to help other creatives tell their own stories, and encourage everyone to make more art (

Hoot, graphic designer (@sarahblackmonlips)

Pun contest, day 4…another winner!

Today’s winning submission by @oberrated explains why we’ve been hearing “Free Bird” trickling through salmon-packed babbling brooks and streams. #SciArt by Hoot (@sarahblackmonlips)!


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