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If there’s one bear that’s made it abundantly clear that our ursine friends love honey, it’s Winnie The Pooh. This beloved character has been seen multiple times with his paws in a honey bee nest but he always seems to get chased and stung by the bees.
I’ve often wondered about the reality of the situation and unfortunately, Disney hasn’t really portrayed the truth.
While bears may get stung by bees in their pursuit of a sweet treat, their skin is much thicker and they have fewer vulnerable spots compared to humans. So, if they’re stung, it doesn’t bother them too much.
After mulling over the question; do bears get stung by bees, I decided to do some research and in this article, I’d love to share what I’ve found out.
Table of Contents
Yes! Bears love honey because it’s a sweet treat. However, unlike our beloved bear, Winnie, this isn’t the main reason that a bear will attack a beehive. Moreover, there are only some species of bears that will behave in this way.
You’re more likely to see a brown or black bear heading for a honeybee hive. That said, species like the sun bear, sloth bear, and even the panda will have a snip of honey if they can get their paws on it. Arctic bears, such as the polar bear simply don’t have access to honey and honey bees tend to favour tropical or temperate climates.
While bears do enjoy honey, this isn’t why they’re attacking a hive. One of the main things that bears are looking for when raiding a hive is the bees’ eggs and larvae.
They’ll attack the hive and take the brood combs and getting some honey is an incidental reward from doing this. However, they have to face a multitude of angry adult bees and their stingers in the process.
The diet of brown and black bears is incredibly diverse. They feed on a variety of fish and animals as well as plants, fruits, and berries.
These beautiful animals are opportunists and will take whatever they can get. If you live in an area where there are wild bears, you may have noticed that they’ll raid your trash cans and may even show up at campsites or picnics in the woods. This is because bears have an amazing sense of smell and can detect a potential meal from more than a mile away!
Just like all other animals, bears need protein and eating the larvae, eggs, and pupae from within the hive provides this. However, during the process, it’s not uncommon for bears to eat adult bees as well. Since their stings are of little harm to the bear, it’s possible for them to include these flying insects in their diets.
You’ve probably heard that honey bees will die if they sting and this is absolutely correct. The stinger is attached to structures within the abdomen, such as the digestive system. Since the stinger is barbed, when the bee pulls away, it gets stuck inside and consequently rips the bee’s insides out as it moves away. It’s a pretty gruesome way to die but it’s all in the name of protecting the queen and colony!
So, what happens when a bee stings a bear? Truthfully, not much. Humans may suffer some pain, swelling, and irritation when stung by a bee but bears have much thicker skin than we do so they hardly notice it.
They’ll take what they want from the hive and then shake any bees off their bodies before getting on with their day, completely unscathed. The only ones that have suffered are the bees.
You may have thought that bears eating honey was something that’s only portrayed in movies but these large mammals do, in fact, attack honey bee nests.
They’re usually after the eggs and larvae which are an excellent source of protein but honey is a sweet reward for their efforts. Of course, bees can get aggressive when they’re attacked which makes you wonder if bears get stung by bees.
Bees will certainly give bears a run for their money during an attack and will use their stingers to try and frighten them away. Unfortunately for the bees, this is all in vain since the thick skin of the bear is very resistant to their efforts and they’ll normally get away with their loot, leaving the nest in tatters.