Can You Get Stung by a Honey Bee

Can You Get Stung By A Honey Bee?

Contrary to popular perception, not all bees will sting you.

Can You Get Stung by a Honey Bee

In actuality, not every bee has a stinger; only females do, and even amid these, not every one will use it. Some bees, such as bumblebees, will sting you if they become alarmed or terrified, but others won’t.

But what about honey bees? Will they sting? Can they sting?

In this article, we will tell you all that you need to know about honey bees and their ability to sting.

Do Honey Bees Sting?

A person or predator can be stung by a female honey bee using its stinger.

Since male honey bees lack stingers, they are unable to sting people. Yet, as male honey bees (see also: How Can You Spot The Honey-Bee Vs. The Carpenter Bee?)only make up about 10-15% of a colony, the preponderance of honey bees are known to sting.

So, if you ever see a honey bee flying around, it is highly likely that it will be able to sting you. However, that does not mean that it will sting you!

To most people, a honey bee sting may hurt for a little while, but will not require any medical attention, as it will heal on its own.

For certain individuals with an allergic reaction to the toxins, honey bee stings can be extremely painful, or even fatal.

Do Honey Bees Die After Stinging?

It is true that when a honey bee stings a person or a predator, the bee itself will immediately die as a repercussion.  

The bee’s jagged stinger is attached to its digestive system and is situated at the end of the abdomen. This section also houses the venom sac, which is where the venom is produced.

A honey bee stings something or someone by jabbing its stinger into the victim’s skin.

The honey bee (see also: Picking The Best Clover For Honey Bees; Best Species Of Clover)is killed when the venom sac and other body parts linked to the stinger are ripped out of its abdomen and left behind as it retreats.

Wasps, along with numerous other kinds of bees, have the ability to remove their stinger without getting hurt after striking something or someone, which allows them to sting multiple times.

Only honey bees possess (see also: The Bee’s Knees: Do Bees Possess Knees?)unique barbs on their stingers that remain attached to the victim’s skin after being stung, ripping out their internal organs as they fly away.

For this reason, it is not possible for a honey bee to sting more than once. Once they have used their stinger one time, they have given themselves an immediate death sentence, in which there is no coming back from.

The Process Af A Honey Bee’s Sting

A honey bee (see also: Why Do Bees Make Honey?)may strike somebody with her barbed stinger to defend herself, releasing apitoxin, the scientific name for bee venom, into the victim’s skin.

Pheromones are also released during this activity, which we will discuss in more detail later.

We will also go into greater detail about each of the potential causes of a honey bee sting later in this post. But no matter what happens, it always ends with her jabbing her stinger into your skin.

The barb that is lodged in the epidermis of large mammals gets pulled from the bee’s abdomen when she tries to flee. This is the reason a bee only stings you once before it dies.

She has been fatally injured, lost her barb, and is no longer able to sting.

Once the honey bee has injected her venom and pulls away, she will immediately die as her insides are ripped from her body. By this point, the victim will have experienced the sting, and may be in a mild to severe amount of pain.

Honey bee stingers stay stuck in your flesh after the attack, unlike those of other insects like bumblebees, wasps, hornets, and yellow jackets, which shoot their venom inside your flesh before withdrawing their stinger.

This implies that the honey bee’s stinger must be removed (see also: How To Remove Bee Stinger)by the afflicted themselves.

A typical person who is not allergic to bee stings will experience a mild stinging sensation after being stung. The majority of people’s discomfort and swelling will go away within 24 hours.

Rarely, a person who has been stung may experience anaphylaxis, which indicates an allergy to the toxin.

This will result in nausea, inflammation, intense itching, and breathing difficulties, all of which necessitate emergency medical assistance.

How Serious Is A Honey Bee’s Sting?

Depending on the individual, a honey bee sting can range from being a minor injury that heals on its own, to a serious injury that could result in extreme pain, and could even prove to be fatal if untreated.

The latter, however, is extremely rare, and will only occur if the stung victim is allergic to bee venom.

Bee stings can cause from minor to serious injuries. When stung, the primary symptoms are a severe pain followed by redness, irritation, and inflammation.

These symptoms and indications are entirely typical and to be expected after being stung.

The response could start out modest, perhaps impacting a small region of the body for a brief time. Developing inflammation and swelling over time would be indicators of a moderate reaction.

On the other hand, extreme symptoms, which include swelling, vomiting, and fever, may be symptoms of anaphylaxis.

If someone ever has a severe reaction, they should visit an emergency facility right away because these reactions can be life-threatening.

How To Deal With A Honey Bee Sting

It would be quite odd for someone to be stung by a bee and not feel it when it happens. 

At impact, the pain is fairly severe and is likened to being poked by a pin or a thick but short needle. The impact will certainly be felt even if the person is actively engaged with another activity.

When someone notices that they have been stung, they must seek for the stinger and make an effort to remove it. Typically, you may do this by removing it with a hive tool or your fingernail.

If it hasn’t fully sunk into the skin, it may simply be plucked out. 

When a person has been stung through their clothes, it may be as simple as pulling the piece of clothing away from the skin to remove the stinger.

Since the stinger entered through the material, it should just pull away with the clothing as it is pulled back.

If you remove the stinger fairly quickly, the amount of venom you absorb can be reduced. Therefore, you will want to try to remove the stinger as quickly as possible.

Following being stung, the person will experience some swelling and redness around the affected area. These symptoms will vary depending on the individual, but in most cases, the worst part of the inflammation and discomfort should reside within an hour.

Dealing With A Mild Bee Sting Reaction

Once a person has been stung, and the stinger has been removed, the next step will be to cleanse the area. This can be done using some soap and warm water, and using a clean cloth to dry the area afterward.

Antiseptic wipes are also a good idea, as this will help sterilize the pierced area.

If the sting is particularly painful, some ice cubes may be used to reduce the swelling. Additionally, you could take some over the counter medicine to relieve the pain as it heals. 

If the symptoms are particularly uncomfortable, you may want to contact a doctor, as they can prescribe antihistamines to reduce the itching and swelling.

Dealing With A Moderate Or Severe Bee Sting Reaction

If the symptoms following a bee sting are more severe than the usual symptoms, e.g., difficulty breathing and swelling of the tongue and throat, they should be taken to receive medical attention immediately. 

Anaphylaxis, if left untreated, can become fatal. 89 Americans lost their lives to bee stings in 2017. Even though this isn’t a particularly high number, it is still extremely surprising given how quickly someone may sustain a bee sting. 

If you neglect severe symptoms, you run a higher risk of developing a serious illness or possibly passing away from your injuries.

It is always best to seek medical help upon being stung by any type of insect if you experience unusually painful symptoms.

Upon arrival at an emergency unit, after being assessed, a doctor must administer an anti-reaction shot right away to the patient who has experienced an allergic reaction to a bee sting. This will minimize the swelling, and should help the patient breathe normally again. 

Depending on the severity of the injury, it is uncertain how long treatment will take. Usually, however, the patient will be allowed to go home after a couple of hours.

Those who are allergic to bee stings typically keep emergency medication with them, so they can treat themselves in case another bee sting occurs.

If a person gets stung once and finds out they are allergic to bee venom, they may want to acquire some emergency medication to keep on hand for future situations.

Can You Avoid A Honey Bee Sting?

You can and should take a variety of steps to lower your risk of getting stung, and lessen the impact if you do.

Can You Get Stung by a Honey Bee (1)

Avoiding Blocking Hive Entrances

Of course, the more often you find yourself accompanied by bees, the higher your chance of getting stung will be. You are much more likely to be stung if you keep bees or work with them in some other capacity.

If this is the case, you should perform hive inspections in the early afternoon while many bees are feeding outside in the sun.

A less congested hive is simpler to check, and you have a lower chance of upsetting the remaining bees.

Moreover, you must avoid standing directly in front of the hive opening. By obstructing the way, you’ll appear more dangerous and the bees will be more protective of their territory.

They will be more likely to sting you as a result.

Wear Protective Clothing

The key to avoid being stung by bees is to wear protective clothing. While a beekeeper will already be wearing appropriate clothing, the average person may not be thinking about keeping their skin covered on a hot, summer’s day.

This is troubling, as bees are more likely to be flying around when the sun is out.

One of the best ways to avoid being stung is to wear long sleeved shirts and pants that cover your entire legs. Basically, you will want to cover up any skin.

Although, it is worth mentioning that bee stingers can pierce some pieces of clothing, so even this method will not fully protect you.

Wear Light Colored Clothing

You may notice that beekeepers will usually wear white-colored suits (see also: Best Beekeeping Suits)while dealing with large amounts of bees. This isn’t a coincidence.

Strangely, bees are more likely to feel threatened by darker colors, such as black, blue, or even dark red. The darker the color, the more aggressive a bee will become upon seeing it.

On the flip side, bees are less likely to be attracted to lighter colors.

Therefore, a safe option is to wear lighter colored clothes when you’re going outside, as this will make you less likely to get stung by a frightened bee.

Avoid Wearing Too Many Scented Products

We all know that bees and wasps are attracted to sweet-scented products, especially food. This is why they are more likely to follow you if you are drinking a fizzy drink, or eating an ice cream.

They are attracted to certain scents, which is what draws them towards you.

Bees are addicted to nectar, a sweet substance that is naturally produced by growing flowers. They become attracted to anything that also smells or tastes sweet, including sugary foods, or even certain perfumes and deodorants.

If you are wearing a floral-scented perfume or deodorant, bees will try to get closer to you to get a whiff of the scent. This may result in them stinging you.

Therefore, you should avoid wearing any heavily scented products, especially ones that smell particularly sweet or flowery.

Avoid Moving Too Quickly/Swatting Them Away

Finally, here is a piece of information that your parents likely taught you when you were a small child.  It is, probably, the most important thing to remember if you want to avoid getting stung by any kind of bee.

If you are in a situation in which a honey bee is approaching you, the advisable thing to do is to remain very still until they have flown away. 

If you attempt to swat them, they will become stress and scared, which will lead them to protecting themselves and stinging you as an automated response. Do not attempt to kill a bee, or move it away by hitting it.

Can You Build Up A Resistance To Bee Stings?

A study in Switzerland, as reported in an article in the journal New Scientist, showed that elevated concentrations of apitoxin at the start of the season inhibit a typically robust immunological response throughout the rest of the season.

As a consequence, the response to the stings gradually becomes less intense with each attack.

Each spring, as the immunity wears off, the process is repeated. Furthermore, a person’s response to a bee sting could vary from time to time. Even though their first bee sting didn’t hurt very terribly, they might respond badly if they get stung again years later.

This is why it’s crucial for you to constantly pay close attention to how you feel after getting stung by a bee, even if you previously felt fine.

Why Do Honey Bees Sting?

Now that we know how to avoid bee stings, let’s take a look at why bees may want to sting you in the first place. 

It is important to remember that most bees will avoid stinging anyone, since this action will single-handedly result in their premature deaths. Therefore, a bee will usually only sting if they feel that it is their only option. 

Here are the reasons that a bee might try to sting you.

Self Protection

Certain stinging insects, such as hornets and wasps, have the potential to act aggressively regardless of whether they are being attacked, or they are being left alone. It is in their nature to act violently towards others. 

Honey bees, in contrast, are not thought to be predatory; they will typically only attack if they feel unsafe, and feel threatened enough to feel the need to protect their colonies.

The entryway to a hive is guarded by bees within every honey bee colony, and intruders must all be repelled, whether they are wasps, hornets, bees from another colony, or an oblivious human being simply walking by the hive.

Even if you are passing a hive without any intention of harming the bees inside, the bees themselves are unaware of this; they will simply view you as a threat, and sting you in defense.

Honey bees put in a lot of effort to collect materials and assemble food reserves. Since their lives may be threatened by any interference, it is likely that they may react defensively if they feel that their livelihoods are under attack. 

This is why you would likely get stung by a honey bee if you cupped it in your hand to remove it from a room, like you would with a spider. The bee would immediately sting you out of self-defense, and to escape your grasp.

This is also why you are more likely to get stung by a bee if you try to swat them away; they will view that as an attack.

Pheromone Attraction

Any type of bee, once it detects a threat, starts to release distress chemical signals that warn other bees of the danger. Bees employ this kind of transmission to alert the rest of their community if they encounter any difficulties.

Whenever a honey bee stings someone, or something, its pheromones lure other bees to the scene of the sting, in addition to alerting them to it in the first place.

This implies that once a colony mobilizes for defense, a single sting might swiftly increase into several.

Although while a single sting can be terrible, it can be handled and treated with little to no issues.

However, if you were to get stung repeatedly, even if you do not have an allergy, it might become a genuine problem.

Therefore, once you have been stung by a honey bee, you may want to flee the scene of the attack fairly quickly. If you stick around for too long, you may find yourself swatting away more bees than you can handle…

Stress Or Fear

Everyone gets overwhelmed with stress and anxiety at times, and honey bees are no different.

Just like a person may be tempted to punch someone who is getting on their nerves, honey bees will sting someone for the same reason.

A honey bee could become overly anxious and sting someone for a variety of causes.

For instance, if bees are handled carelessly by a beekeeper, such as when the frame they are hanging on is abruptly dropped, the swarm may experience a great deal of unanticipated stress.

A swarm of bees may grow agitated if their queen has been lost or if they are without a queen. This is because the hive will feel threatened, and brood production will decrease.

Other frequent causes include hive pest infestations, weather changes, nightly predator assaults, or their honey being stolen by other bees, hornets, or wasps.

Following Their Leader

In terms of heredity, the bees in any colony will take after one particular player of the hive in terms of behavior, and this will significantly impact their temperament.

We are, of course, talking about the queen.

A colony follows the queen’s example in terms of behavior, therefore if the queen is predisposed to acting aggressively, so will the hive.

Sadly, whatever makes a colony more hostile may indeed make it more productive. When they mimic the queen’s behavior, this could result in an extremely extensive colony with a terrible attitude.

If this occurs, the entire hive could have an urge to strike and sting any onlookers at any point.

In nature, nothing can really be done about this kind of situation. However, if you are a beekeeper yourself, and this situation has occurred, the only deemable solution would be to remove the queen from the hive, and replace her.

The hive will, hopefully, stop being so aggressive once they have been given a calmer leader to follow.

If the hive continues to be aggressive, even after the queen has dispatched, it may be necessary to exterminate the entire hive. This is only necessary in extreme cases, however, and most scenarios fix themselves before that situation occurs.

Too Many Bees

As we briefly mentioned in the previous section, a hive can appear, and become, more aggressive if there are lots and lots of bees in the colony. The larger a colony, the more bees there are to protect themselves, which will lead to more aggression.

During the spring, an average beehive may inhabit around 10,000 bees.

By the time summer comes around, that number will increase up to five times as many inhabitants.

In this case if a person was to get stung by a honey bee, the pheromone release will attract way more bees than usual, putting that person at risk of getting stung numerous times.

Again, it is recommended that, if you are ever stung by a honey bee, that you should leave that area as soon as possible. If the honey bee that stung you came from a large colony, it is likely that their friends are not too far behind them.

Final Thoughts

Not all honey bees can sting. Only female bees possess a stinger, meaning that they are the only ones of their species that can sting as a defense method.

Since females will make up around 85-90% of a colony, most bees that you see in your life will likely be able to sting you.

When a honey bee stings, they kill themselves almost immediately.

Their barbed stingers become lodged in the victim’s skin, and as they pull away, the stinger remains stuck in the skin, tearing the bee’s inner organs out of their bodies.

Honey bees will often only attack if they feel threatened, stressed, or scared.

They may also attack if they detect pheromone released by another bee who has already stung someone, or if the queen of their hive is particularly aggressive by nature.

We hope you found this article helpful.

What Happens If A Bee Stings You?