What to Do When a Bee Stings You

What to do when a bee stings you? You should know.

What to do when a bee stings you: Find out how why bees sting, how to safely deal with a bee sting and which myths aren't true.

Bees are everywhere, pollinating our lush gardens and making delicious honey - but sometimes the furry little creatures can bite back in the form of a sting.

Why do bees sting?

Bees like to spend their time pollinating flowers, eating honey, nectar, and shrubs. Their existence as prey means that their stingers are used as a defense mechanism when they feel threatened. In other words, a bee will only usually sting you if it feels as though it is in danger.

Honey and bumble bees that are gathering nectar can simply be left alone to avoid stings, however, bees that are protecting their hive or nest are more likely to sting if they perceive you as a threat or you get too close to their hive.

It's also worth noting that only the smaller, female worker drones and the queen have the facility to sting, not the males.

Will I get stung more than once?

If you are close to a hive or nest, it's possible that the pheromones produced when the bee stings you will attract more bees from the hive to join in the attack. If you are stung by a bee, it's best to leave the site as soon as possible to reduce the likelihood of additional stings.

What happens when a bee stings you?

When a bee stings you, the barbed stinger on its rear end will inject a certain toxin called apitoxin. This substance is what can cause allergic reactions to bee stings in some people and is also what causes the majority of the pain.

Due to the barbed nature of the bee sting, the sting is often left behind in the skin, and in the case of the honey bee, the abdomen, digestive tract and some nerves are also left behind, causing the bee to die. Only honey bees die after they sting, so if you suffer a bumblebee sting then the bee will survive.

The remnants of the stinger and other parts of the bee can cause the toxin to continue to be dispersed into the bloodstream for up to 10 minutes after the initial injury. That's why it's important to remove a bee sting as soon as possible, especially if you are allergic to bee stings (the stinger should be removed before any allergy treatment is given).

What to do when a bee stings you

The first thing you need to do after suffering from a bee sting is to remove the stinger. Many people try to use their fingers to get the stinger out, but doing so can squeeze additional venom into your body as it's removed, causing more pain. Instead, use a credit card, or something similar, and swipe downwards from above the stinger; this should safely and quickly remove the stinger with little fuss.

Once the stinger has been removed, and you've moved away from the area to avoid any additional stings, you should wash the affected area with soap and water and use a cold compress or ice pack in the area to help to reduce any swelling.

You can ask for over-the-counter painkillers to lessen the pain of a bee sting - although, the pain will most likely be at its most intense for around 20 to 30 minutes.

Bee stings and allergic reactions

Allergic reactions to bee stings are quite common and can often induce severe and immediate reactions. If you get stung by a bee, seek emergency medical attention if you display any shortness of breath, difficulty breathing, restricted airway, swelling of the face, or dizziness. It's also recommended to see a medical professional if you are stung on or around the eyes or mouth, as this can cause damage.

Can I treat my bee sting with vinegar or bicarbonate of soda?

Bee stings, unlike wasp stings, are mostly acidic in nature. A wasp sting is mostly alkaline which means that people believe the pain can be neutralized using acidic substances such as vinegar and bee stings using alkaline substances such as bicarbonate of soda.

However, bee and wasp stings contain more than just the one acidic or alkaline ingredients and are injected under the skin and into the bloodstream - meaning that this course of treatment is unlikely to be effective.

Last Reviewed:
July 07, 2017
Last Updated:
October 17, 2018
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