Bumble bees are large and rather scary looking, but is there any reason to be afraid of them? What happens when a bumble bee stings you? Do they even sting in the first place? What does a bumble bee sting look like, and how do you treat it? Keep reading! In this article, we’ll answer all of these questions and more!
What You'll Learn Today
Do Bumble Bees Sting?
Bumble bees do sting, but they try to avoid doing so if possible. They are not naturally aggressive; their stinger is nothing more than a defense method for if they feel threatened.
Bumble bees are generally calm, laid-back pollinators who prefer to spend their time buzzing from flower to flower. They don’t go looking for trouble, but if predators or unobservant humans come to them, they are prepared to defend themselves and make their presence known.
The stinger is actually a reproductive organ called the ovipositor; it secretes venom to paralyze any invertebrate the bee may hope to lay eggs in. But, since only bumble bee queens lay eggs, the female worker bees instead use their stingers for defensive purposes.
How Many Times Can a Bumble Bee Sting?
You might know that honey bees can only sting once; they have barbed stingers that tend to pull free from their body after they sting, fatally damaging their internal organs.
Bumble bees are designed differently from honey bees; their stingers are smooth so they don’t get caught in the skin of the person or animal they’re stinging. The stinger punctures the skin then slides right back out when the bee retracts it.
For this reason, bumble bees can sting again and again throughout their lives. Using their stinger doesn’t hurt them as it does with honey bees.
What Happens to a Bumble Bee After it Stings You?
After a bumble bee stings, it will pull its stinger out of the victim and fly off. It will most likely be completely uninjured.
If the bee is injured at all, its injuries will have come not from the process of stinging, but from the victim’s reaction to the sting. For example, if you are stung by a bumble bee, you may try to slap it to get it off of you; if the bee is unable to get away in time, it may be injured or even killed.
Again, though, bumble bees don’t sustain any negative effects from the stinging action itself. They can sting repeatedly throughout their lives.
What Does a Bumble Bee Sting Look Like?
Bumble bee stings are rarely deadly, though they can cause potentially lethal anaphylactic reactions in people who are highly allergic to their venom.
Even if you aren’t allergic, you’ll likely experience minor, localized symptoms if you are stung by a bumble bee. Such stings tend to cause the following symptoms:
- Pain at the site of the sting: Often the first thing you’ll notice is a burning, stinging sensation. This pain will continue several minutes to several hours after you have been stung.
- Swelling: The skin immediately surrounding the sting site will become swollen and puffy. This swelling is usually minor, but if a person is stung repeatedly around the eyes or air passages, it may cause added complications.
- Hot, red skin: You may notice the swollen areas of skin may be pink or red and feel warm or hot to the touch. This is a result of your immune system attempting to rid your body of the invading venom.
- Itchiness: In addition to the pain, you may notice the sting site itching as well. This is especially true as the sting begins to heal; the pain, swelling, and redness will go down, but the itchiness may go up for a few days.
How to Treat a Bumble Bee Sting?
If you’ve just been stung by a bumble bee, you may be wondering if there’s anything you can do to relieve the symptoms and help it heal faster.
Luckily, most bee stings don’t require medical attention. That said, if you are experiencing any of the following symptoms, you may be having an allergic reaction and will need immediate emergency treatment:
- Trouble breathing
- Throat or tongue swelling
- Nausea or vomiting
- Racing pulse
- Hives or similar skin rash
These symptoms will typically present very quickly after a bee sting. If you don’t notice any of these symptoms within a few minutes, you can safely proceed with basic first aid measures at home.
Bumble Bee Sting First Aid
To treat a bee sting, check out the video or follow the steps below:
- Move to a safe location: If there are a lot of bees around you, the first thing you need to do is get away from them before they all start stinging. Remember, bumble bees won’t sting unless they feel threatened, but if you are too close to their nest or are disturbing areas where they are nectaring, you may find yourself with an entire colony trying to sting you.
- Wash the sting area: You want to clean the area where you were stung to prevent infection. Flush the area with warm water and use a gentle soap to cleanse the skin surrounding the sting.
- Apply a baking soda paste: Anecdotal evidence suggests that applying a paste of baking soda and water to the sting will help to draw the venom from the skin, offering pain relief and speeding healing. You can make this paste by mixing a little bit of water with some baking soda to create a dough-like consistency, then applying a small amount of it over the sting and taping it in place with a bandaid.
- Apply a cold pack: To help reduce pain and swelling, and to slow the spread of the bee venom, apply a cold pack directly to the site of the sting. If you are using an ice pack, wrap it in a towel to avoid freezing or causing other cold-related damage to your skin.
- Apply a local antihistamine: If the sting continues to hurt, itch, or bother you in any way, you can apply an antihistamine cream to the area to reduce your symptoms. Products containing hydrocortisone or lidocaine tend to be the best options.
Bumble bees can sting repeatedly without suffering any harm. Though bee stings are painful, they are generally harmless and can be treated at home using the basic first aid methods described above.