Answer by Diane Eager
We normally think of insect stingers as weapons, and therefore they would not be needed in the original very good world. They are certainly used as weapons in the fallen and cursed world we now live in, so many claim they must have been designed specifically for this purpose. Sceptics and evolutionists also throw this at Christians. The stingers of wasps and bees are sharp and can penetrate human skin, and are used to inject poisonous chemicals. This is not good, so were insects created with them, or were they added after the Fall of Man and God’s judgement?
For insects to be changed from having no stingers and venom into insects with them a lot of extra genes would have to be added. It is unlikely that God added extra genes to insects as part of his judgement, since such new modified insects would be significantly different from the original created ones. They would have a lot of extra genes not found in the original insects, and therefore no longer be the same kind. Yet Genesis tells us that all living things were made according to their kinds, and all our studies of them show they reproduce after their kind. Genesis also states God finished all his creating on the sixth day (Genesis 2:1-2). Therefore, there is no need to add convoluted theological theories that God added anything to living creatures after the fall.
Research has also shown that the stinger-venom systems of wasps and bees are not only very complex but very interdependent. Insects do need a lot of genes to make both the stingers and the venoms so they can work together, all of which would have been required to make them useful functioning systems under the control of the insects.
We need to look more closely at the structure and function of the stingers and venom. Do they show any evidence of creative design and useful functions?
The stingers certainly show evidence of clever design. The wasp stinger has been studied carefully as a model for a micro-injection system that could be used in medicine. If scientists do manage to build something like it by modern-day nanotechnology it will be proof that the original must have been designed by more intelligent creator, who did not need anything to copy.
Let’s also look at the chemicals in insect venoms. These vary in chemical composition between the different species, but they all break down organic matter. That is why they are so painful and do real damage to your skin if you are stung. Could there be a good purpose for this? The answer is an overwhelming yes. Breaking down organic matter is a useful function, especially for female insects wanting a safe place to lay their eggs and provide nutrients for the offspring, and this is what wasps use their stingers for. Only female wasps have stingers, and the stingers are their egg laying devices named ovipositors. They are very well designed for penetrating plants stems or fruits, and in the original good world wasps would have laid their eggs in plants, or built nests and suppled them with plant matter. No humans or animals would be harmed. Stingers and chemical certainly would have had a useful and good purpose in the original created world. Today many species of wasp still lay their eggs in plants or in plant matter.
So, what changed after human sin and God’s judgement came into the world? The behaviour of humans and animals certainly did. By Noah’s day the world was filled with violence of both humans and animals. Today’s Bees and wasps only sting if they are disturbed, especially if their nest is under threat.
After Noah’s Flood the environment degenerated and plant food became less plentiful and less nutritious, therefore, some animals took to preying on other animals. Female insects unable to find nutritious plant foods to lay their eggs in became parasites by injecting their eggs into other insects’ larvae. This behaviour has been used as evidence by sceptics, including Darwin, that there couldn’t be a good Creator God. However, parasites and predators are the result of degeneration of the world that occurred after it was corrupted by sin and cursed as a part of God’s judgement. They were not God’s original purpose, so don’t blame God for the horrible things in the world.
What about honeybees? Their stingers are not ovipositors, and worker bee stingers have barbs on them that make it almost impossible for the bee to extract the stinger after stinging human or mammalian skin without tearing it from the bee, which kills the bee. But that is proof that God did not design honeybees to sting people, since causing a fatal injury a bee is not good at all, so this use was not part of God’s original design.
The reason the sting is unable to be extracted is that human (and mammal) skin contains a dense flexible meshwork of collagen and elastic fibres immediately under the epidermis. The bee stinger gets caught in these and can’t be extracted. However, if the bee stings another insect, which has a chitin cuticle, it can extract the sting. Therefore, it is useful for defending the hive from other insects. However, warfare between insects is part of the fallen world, so it would not be the original function either, even if it is useful now. Are there any indications that bee stings have any other function?
There is a clue in the nature of the venom – it is a good antiseptic that kills microorganisms. A beehive is warm and humid, and is a good environment for microbes to flourish. Therefore, the bees need to keep the hive clean and have some means of keeping microbes under control. The chemicals found in venom are found on the outer surface of the cuticles of adult bees and on the surfaces of wax structures in the hive. One study of chemicals in bee venoms led one group of researchers to report: “Our results confirm the idea that the venom functions are well beyond the classical stereotype of defence against predators, and suggest that the different nesting biology of these species may be related to the use of the venom in a social immunity context.” They went on to conclude: “The presence of antimicrobial peptides on the comb wax of the cavity-dwelling species and on the cuticle of workers of all the studied species represents a good example of ‘collective immunity’ and a component of the ‘social immunity’ respectively.” Reference: David Baracchia, Simona Francese and Stefano Turillazziac, “Beyond the antipredatory defence: Honey bee venom function as a component of social immunity” Toxicon 9 September 2011, doi: 10.1016/j.toxicon.2011.08.017.
Similar results have been found for other social insects, which also maintain large nests that would be good breeding grounds for bacteria and fungi. Keeping microbes under control is a useful function, and would be needed in the original good world. Therefore, it is more likely that insect venoms were originally designed for this ecological function, rather than a purely defence/attack function.
This does not explain the structure of the honeybee stinger, which is well designed for penetrating non-fibrous organic matter. It is possible it has a function in nest construction and maintenance that has yet to be found because no-one has bothered to look for it. Hopefully, further research will find out.
This is a challenge to biologists to stop looking at the world purely as a Darwinian “struggle for life” but look for evidence of creative design that has been corrupted by changes in behaviour or loss of function. Changes in behaviour, such as insects stinging people and animals, may be a reaction to overall degeneration of the environment and loss of food sources and suitable habitat, and irresponsible behaviour by people.
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