Do Bumblebees Sting?

Written On: by Theo The Beekeeper

If you’ve ever been close to a bumblebee, you may have wondered if they sting the way that honey bees do. Especially if you’re allergic to bees, this is an important question to know the answer to. Read on for information about whether bumblebees sting, whether those stings hurt, and more!

While female bumblebees are capable of stinging, they rarely do so because they are not very aggressive insects. Unless they feel hurt or threatened, they are unlikely to sting you. However, bumblebees are capable of stinging more than once.

Do Bumblebee Stings Hurt?

Bumblebee stings hurt about as much as honey bee stings. They come with an intense burning sensation that usually lasts about five to ten minutes, followed by itching and redness that can last up to a few days. While they do hurt quite a lot, the pain is short-lived and bearable for most people.

If someone is allergic to bee stings, being stung by a bumblebee is quite a different story. The sting may itch, hives may appear, and intense swelling can occur around the sting and in other areas of the body. An allergy to bee stings is a serious condition that can cause anaphylactic shock, so it is important to watch out for the signs of a bee allergy when stung for the first time.

If you or someone you know starts showing signs of an allergic reaction to any kind of bee sting, get them to a professional as soon as possible, as it may be life-threatening.

How Do Bee Stings Work?

Bee sting on wrist
Bee sting

Bee stings hurt not just because of the stinger that gets lodged in your skin, but because of the venom that is ejected from the stinger when the bee stings you. Bee venom is made up of many compounds that cause different types of reactions to create a bee sting. Read on to find out more about each of the major compounds in bee stings.

Melittin

While bee venom is mostly water, scientists have been able to study what compounds make up bee venom when the venom is dried. Mellitin makes up the largest portion of bee venom, constituting about 50% of the dry weight of the venom. Mellitin is responsible for most of the pain of bee stings, and works by causing red blood cells to explode and blood vessels to expand.

Read more...  Do Bees Fly At Night?

Phospholipase A2

Phospholipase A2 is another compound found in bee venom, which combines with melittin to create bee hemolytic factor. For the science nerds, this compound works by cleaving cellular membrane phosopholipids to create an allergic reaction in humans, causing inflammation and pain. Interestingly, this compound has antibacterial effects and anti-tumor properties, meaning it could be used for medical purposes.

Apamin

Apamin is a compound that increases the sensitivity of cells and degrades nerve tissue, increasing the toxicity of the venom by making the nervous system more sensitive to it.

Hyaluronidase

Hyaluronidase helps the venom spread to surrounding tissue by degrading cells so that venom can enter them faster.

Histamine

Histamine causes capillaries to leak, creating the red spots that one might see around bee stings and causing inflammation.

As you can see, bee stings are quite complex, and bee venom is made up of many ingredients that all work together to create a reaction to the venom.

What Kind of Bee Doesn’t Sting?

Hornet stinging human skin
A hornet stings human skin, macro shot

Most male bees of most species do not have stingers and are therefore unable to sting. There are also some species of small bees, such as stingless bees, that have tiny stingers that are fairly ineffective against humans and can barely pierce our skin.

Is a Bumblebee Sting Worse than a Honey Bee Sting?

A bumblebee sting is about the same as a honey bee sting, except that bumblebees can sting multiple times, so you may be stung more than once by one bee and the overall level of pain will be higher. Many people stung by both bees report the pain feeling similar.

Can You Pet a Bumblebee?

Yes, you can pet a bumble bee, but it is not recommended to pet them. Even though they are very cute, and you might want to touch one, it’s best to leave bumblebees to go about their business. You can accidentally harm bumblebees by picking them up or touching them, and you will be putting yourself at risk of being stung if you try to touch them.

Can Bumble bees Sting More Than Once?

Unlike honey bees, individual bumblebees can sting multiple times. While honey bees have barbed stingers that tear off of their bodies once embedded in human skin, bumblebees have smooth, straight stingers that can move in and out of skin many times in a row.

Read more...  How Much Honey Does a Bee Produce?

When provoked, bumblebees can become aggressive and sting an attacker multiple times. Due to this, it is highly recommended to leave bumble bees alone unless you are a professional. If there is a bumblebee next in your yard or on your land, the best way to remove it is to call a professional pest control expert.

Can All Bumblebees Sting?

Not all bumblebees have stingers. Like most species of bees, only the female workers and queen bees in bumblebee colonies have stingers. This means that if you see a male bumblebee, you don’t need to be afraid that you will be stung.

The caveat is that it’s difficult to tell the difference between a male and a female honeybee unless you get very close to one. Both sexes look very similar, however a female honeybee is slightly larger in size.

Are Bumblebees Aggressive?

Bumblebees are not very aggressive – they do not want to sting you. Like most bees, they only sting if they or their nest is under threat. Again, if you come across a bumblebee nest on your property, do not try to remove it yourself. Since bumblebees can sting multiple times, provoking a nest is a very dangerous thing to do.

How to Avoid Bumblebee Stings

Bee landed on hand
Close up of the Honey Bee stinging attack in the human hand.

It is easy to avoid bumblebee stings simply by staying out of the way of a bumblebees daily routine and not bothering them. Do not try to touch or pick up bumblebees, and if one is near you and trying to sting you, simply run quickly away so that it does not sting you. Do not swat at them or crush them. Stay away from their nests, and you should be safe from stings.

How Do You Treat a Bumblebee Sting?

There are many options when it comes to treating bumblebee stings. You can find remedies for bee stings at the pharmacy or even in your own cupboards.

Anti-Inflammatories

Anti-inflammatories such as Advil or Ibuprofen can help bee stings by reducing swelling and pain in the area. Just follow the instructions on the bottle for the recommended dosage.

Anti-itch Cream

Anti-itch creams that contain hydrocortisone help with bee stings by reducing itching. You can find these creams at most pharmacies, and you just dab a small amount onto the area and rub it in.

Read more...  What Are Hives Made Of?

Ice

One of the simplest treatments for bee stings is just to ice the area to reduce inflammation and numb the skin. Wrap some ice up in a towel or rag and apply the pack to the area for about ten minutes at a time.

Antihistamines

Antihistamines such as Benadryl can help with bee stings because they reduce allergic symptoms to bee stings. If you are mildly allergic to bees, antihistamines are a great method of treatment.

Honey

Honey from bees is also a great treatment for bee stings, oddly enough. It reduces pain and helps the skin to heal. Simply apply a small amount of honey to the area and cover it with a bandage for about an hour.

Baking Soda

Baking soda is another way to treat bee stings. Simply make a paste of baking soda and water and apply it to the area, leaving it on until it dries up. You can repeat this process as many times as necessary.

Apple Cider Vinegar

Another option is to soak the area in apple cider vinegar. If the sting is on your leg, and you can’t soak it in vinegar, you can take a rag and dip it in the vinegar and place it over the area like a compress.

Aloe Vera

Aloe vera is a great product to use to reduce the burning sensation of a bee sting. Aloe vera is great for your skin, and also helps with sunburns. Make sure that you’re buying pure aloe vera gel and not just a produce that contains some aloe vera, as the gel works best.

Witch Hazel

Witch hazel is another produce that you can use to reduce the pain and swelling of a bee sting. You can soak a rag in witch hazel and hold it over the bee sting, or you can soak the area in a bowl of witch hazel.

Epipen

Finally, if you are very allergic to bees, it is important to always carry an Epipen with you in case you are stung. Epipens reduce the symptoms of anaphylactic shock and can save your life if you are stung by a bee.

Author

Theo The Beekeeper

When I was a kid, my dad used to keep bees around the small farm we had, and I absolutely loved helping him. In the past few years, we’ve picked up the hobby again, and I’ve been doing a lot more research. This website is the accumulation of things I’ve learned along the way! You can learn more about my journey and the resources I’ve developed on my about page.

Leave a Comment