Eros, stung by a bee, Ran away and cried for plea:
Venus, mother, I cry , Please help me or I‘ll die
What a terrible disgrace – A dragon bit me on my face
Venus comforting her son
Speaking with a mocking fun -
The little bee's tiny sting
Is for you an earnest thing
But more painful and real hard
Are your stings in human’s heart
Anacreontean songs, 6 BC
Venus, Eros and the bees
By A. Dürer, 1514
BEE VENOM PRODUCTION
Bees produce their venom in their venom glands, schematically described in the figure left. The BV is secreted in a branched acid gland (above) and in the alkaline Dufour’s gland (below), in the whole BV both secretions are mixed.
New born bees do not sting. Venom synthesis begins after two or three days, while the maximal production rate is reached when bees are two to three weeks old. Older worker bees produce less venom. One sting contains about 100 µg of dry BV.
Drones do not have stings, while bee queens have BV, its maximum quantity being that of newly emerged queens, in order to facilitate their fight for survival against competing queens.
The sting consists of three parts: a stylus and two barbed slides (or lancets), one on either side of the stylus. The bee does not push the sting in but it is drawn in by the barbed slides. The slides move alternately up and down the stylus so when the barb of one slide has caught and retracts it pulls the stylus and the other barbed slide into the wound. When the other barb has caught it also retracts up the stylus pulling the sting further in. This process is repeated until the sting is fully in and even continues after the sting and its mechanism is detached from the bee's abdomen.