Honey Bee Sting - What you need to know


Why do bees sting?

Bees sting when they feel threatened.

Do all bees die when they sting?


Bumble bees and wasps can sting many times and will not die, unlike the female worker honey bee. If a honey bee stings, she will die. This is because when she stings, the stinger remains intact in the victim and the intestine is ripped out of the bee. This ultimately means that the honey bee will die.

However, there are male bees in the hive (drones) and these do not sting. A queen bee can sting but she will only ever use her sting to kill another queen bee and she can also sting repeatedly.

What happens when I am stung?

You will feel a sharp pain, much like an injection with a needle. It’s likely the stinger will still be in your skin. It’s important that you remove the stinger in a brushing flick motion. If there are other bees around you, it’s important to move away as the stinger releases pheromones which can attract even more bees to sting you. This is only likely however, if you are a beekeeper. 

The honey bee has a barbed stinger that remains in the victim's skin with its venom sack attached. 

Most people will have only a localised reaction to a bee sting. In the normal reaction to a bee sting, the skin is reddened and painful. Swelling and/or itching may also occur, but the pain usually disappears over a few hours. 

How do I remove a bee sting?

You can use the edge of a credit card, your fingernail, or a blunt knife to scrape over the stinger. Scraping across will actually pull the stinger out and to the side. 

The honey bee has a barbed stingerso you should never use tweezers or use your finger nails to pull the stinger out in a vertical motion. This will pump more venom into your skin.

How do I treat a bee sting?

- Remove the stinger as soon as possible.

- Wash the area with soap and water.

- Apply cold compresses or ice.

- Apply hydrocortisone cream or calamine lotion to ease redness, itching or swelling.

- If itching or swelling is bothersome, take an oral antihistamine that contains diphenhydramine (Benadryl) or chlorpheniramine (Chlor-Trimeton).

- Avoid scratching the sting area. This will worsen itching and swelling and increase your risk of infection.

About 3% of people stung by bees and wasps have an allergic reaction to the sting, and up to 0.8% of bee sting victims experience the severe and life-threatening allergic reaction known as anaphylaxis.

What chemicals are in a bee sting?

The main component of bee venom responsible for pain in vertebrates is the toxin melittin; histamine and other biogenic amines may also contribute to pain and itching. In one of the medical uses of honey bee products, apitherapy, bee venom has been used to treat arthritis and other painful conditions.

Severe allergic reactions

Severe allergic reactions (also called an anaphylactic reaction) are not that common. But when they happen, they're emergencies.

Symptoms can include:

  • - Trouble breathing
  • - Hives that appear as a red, itchy rash and spread to areas beyond the sting
  • - Swelling of the face, throat, or mouth tissue
  • - Wheezing or trouble swallowing
  • - Restlessness and anxiety
  • - Rapid pulse
  • - Dizziness or a sharp drop in blood pressure

If you have any of the above symptoms, you must seek medical assistance IMMEDIATELY.


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