It is a common misconception that all types of bees sting. However, only certain bees within a hive or colony are capable of stinging.

Even though they are capable of it, most bees do not sting unless provoked. The female bees of both social and solitary species are able to sting when threatened. Male bees do not have stingers.

Bumble bees, Bombus spp., are ground-nesting bees and have smaller hives than honey bees. They gather pollen, but they do not produce honey.

Most bumble bee stings occur when their nest is disturbed.

Do bumble bees sting?

Yes. The worker bees and queen bee in a bumble bee colony are capable of stinging. Bumble bee colonies are organized around a queen bee, who can also sting, drones (male bees) and worker bees. Worker bees are sterile females, and are able to sting because the ovipositor has evolved into a stinger. A queen bee generally only uses her stinger to defend against rival queens.

What happens when a bumble bee stings?

Unlike the honey bee, a bumble bee’s stinger has no barbs. Because it is a smooth weapon, it can be used multiple times. This means that an angry bumble bee can potentially cause more harm than a honey bee because it is able to continue to sting. It is also possible for the stinger to break off, but this does not always result in bee death.

When will a bumble bee sting?

Bumble bees are not as defensive as honey bees, and must be provoked before they will attack. Attacks typically occur near the hive, as the bee will defend the hive and its stores of pollen. If a bumble bee is buzzing near you, it may be a male carpenter bee or a worker bee attracted to something sugary. Covering sugary substances to prevent the bee from sensing or accessing them, and moving away from the bee itself are often enough to prevent a bee sting.

If they nest in the ground, how do I know if I'm near a hive?

Because bumble bees nest in the ground, it is possible to be near a hive without seeing it. There are, however, several signs you can look for. Bumble bees may build colonies in the ground itself, in nests abandoned by mice and other small animals or in piles of loose grass clippings. Another indicator that a colony may be near is the sight of bees buzzing just above the ground in a concentrated area.

What happens when I’m stung by a bumble bee?

A bumble bee sting, some say, is typically less painful than the sting of a wasp or honey bee. However, a sting can be dangerous if it occurs on the head and neck, or if the individual is allergic to the venom. Unlike honey bees, bumble bees do not leave behind a venom sac when they sting, so they may not inject as much venom into the victim.

How do I get rid of bumble bees?

Bumble bees build a new nest every year. The queen will survive by overwintering, and will begin the process of creating a new colony in the spring. Because of this, it is likely that you will not need to worry about the same colony year after year, as bumble bees move to new nesting sites when the queen begins colonizing again.

If you are concerned about bumble bee stings and have a nest in your yard or near your house, there are a couple of things you can do. Cutting down on available habitat space will keep the bees from calling your space home. Clearing away brush and grass piles, and keeping the ground well-watered are some ways you can do this. Wet ground will not allow for the building of stable ground tunnels, and is one of the simplest ways to tell ground-dwelling bee species to move along. Cleaning out trash cans regularly and using cans that have a good seal are other easy preventative measures. Bees are attracted to sweet, sticky substances and trash often provides that. By keeping the trash inaccessible, the bees will steer clear.

Bumble bees are considered useful pollinators, as they gather food from a variety of wild and cultivated plants. However, if the bees need to go, call a pest management professional to help you come up with a solution for your bee problem.