A bee sting can be a painful and uncomfortable experience. When a bee senses a threat to itself or its colony, it will use its stinger to inject a venomous toxin into the skin, which may cause symptoms such as pain, swelling, and itching. In most cases, a bee sting is not life-threatening, but it can be dangerous for people allergic to bee venom.

bee on a human 

Why do bees sting?

Bee stings are typically a defensive mechanism bees use to protect themselves or their colony. When a bee feels threatened or senses danger, it may release a chemical alarm pheromone that signals other bees to attack. This response allows bees to protect their hive or colony from potential threats or predators.

Why does a bee sting hurt?

When a bee stings you, it injects a venomous toxin called apitoxin into your skin. The venom from a bee sting contains several components, including histamine, which can cause pain, swelling, and itching. The pain can be severe and may last several hours to a few days, depending on the individual's sensitivity to the venom. Removing the stinger as soon as possible is essential to help reduce the amount of venom that enters your body.

Will a bee die if it stings me?

It is a common misconception that all bees die after stinging, but in reality, only certain species have barbed stingers that get stuck in the skin and cause the bee to die. When a honeybee stings a human, the barbed stinger gets stuck in the skin, and when the bee tries to fly away, it tears its body apart, causing its death. However, other types of bees, such as bumblebees and carpenter bees, have smooth stingers and can sting multiple times without dying. Similarly, hornets and wasps have smooth stingers and can sting multiple times without dying.

bee stinging a human 

Common types of bees that sting

Bumblebees, honeybees, and carpenter bees are common stinging bees. The main difference between the stings of these different types of bees is the severity of the reaction they can cause. Bumblebee and honeybee stings are generally considered less severe than other types of bees, such as yellow jackets or hornets. While carpenter bee stings are more painful due to potent venom, they are rare as they are not aggressive and solitary.

Wasp vs. hornet vs. bee stings

Although bees, wasps, and hornets may seem similar, their stings have some differences. For instance, bees are typically smaller and less aggressive than wasps or hornets, and some species have barbed stingers, which means that they get stuck in the skin and cause the bee to die. Wasps and hornets, on the other hand, have smooth stingers that can be used multiple times without causing their death. The venom from a bee sting is also different from that of a wasp or hornet sting, and each may cause different symptoms and reactions in individuals.

Symptoms of a bee sting

Most of the time, if you are stung by a bee, it may be just a temporary inconvenience, but for some, it can result in more serious reactions, particularly if they have allergies. It is crucial to know the various symptoms of these stings to take the proper action. Here are some common symptoms to be aware of if you think you may have been stung by a bee:

  • Pain or burning sensation at the sting site
  • Swelling around the sting site
  • Redness around the sting site
  • Itching
  • Hives
  • Swelling of the face, tongue, or throat
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Rapid heartbeat
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Dizziness or fainting
bee sting on a body 

Signs of an allergic reaction

Symptoms of an allergic reaction to a bee sting may include swelling at the site of the sting, hives or itching all over the body, coughing, difficulty breathing, tightness in the chest, and swelling of the face, throat, or tongue. In some cases, a severe allergic reaction called anaphylaxis can occur, which can be life-threatening. If you experience any of these symptoms after a sting, it’s important to seek medical attention immediately.

How to treat a bee sting

If you happen to get stung by a bee, the most important step in bee sting treatment is to remove the stinger as soon as possible because the stinger continues to pump venom into your skin for several minutes. It’s recommended to scrape off the stinger with a credit card or using tweezers. After removing the stinger, wash the affected area with soap and water to reduce the risk of infection. Applying a cold compress can also help reduce swelling and pain. Symptoms can last anywhere from a few hours to a few days, depending on the individual's sensitivity. Antihistamines can also be used to reduce swelling and lessen the allergic reaction.

How to help prevent bee stings

An easy way to help prevent getting stung by a bee is to wear protective clothing such as long-sleeved shirts, pants, and closed-toe shoes when outdoors. Also, avoid using scents and sweet drinks, like sodas, or leaving food uncovered outside. Always be cautious around bees and try to stay calm and move slowly if a bee is buzzing around you so you do not agitate it.

At Terminix, we understand that bees are essential for pollination and play a crucial role in our ecosystem. However, bee control methods may be necessary if they become a nuisance or a danger to humans. Our trained technicians use safe and effective methods to remove bees. We prioritize the safety of both our customers and the bees and also recommend working with a beekeeper if needed.