How to Treat Bee Stings | The Old Farmer's Almanac

Bee Stings: Prevention and Treatment

Primary Image

Bees are extremely beneficial insects, but their stings can be very painful. Learn how to prevent and treat a bee or wasp sting here.

How to Treat a Bee Sting

Print Friendly and PDF
No content available.

Here are some first-aid tips for those annoying and often painful bee stings—plus, tips on how to prevent bee stings in the first place.

Prevent Bee Stings

An important consideration when it comes to bees is that they truly don’t want to sting you. This means that you have to somehow provoke a bee to make it sting you. Unfortunately, sometimes this happens accidentally: Many of us have made the mistake of stepping on a bee or gone too close to a bee hive without proper precaution.

You can generally prevent a sting by simply leaving the bees alone. Standing still while a bee flies around you can be a great way to prevent pain for you both. Even if one of the stinging insects lands on you, it will probably fly off on its own with time.

Bees sometimes react to certain odors that perfumes or colognes carry. If you know you are going into an area that generally has them, keep your scent neutral. Bright colors can also attract bees. Be sure to wear footwear outdoors so as not to accidentally step on a stinging insect.

How Often Do Bees or Wasps Sting?

Honey bees can only sting once because their stingers have barbed edges. However, the stinger will continually release venom once it is in you, so you should try to remove it immediately.

Bumble bees, on the other hand, have smooth stingers and can sting more than once. However, they tend to have calmer temperaments than honey bees, which is why many people think of them as harmless.

Wasps can also sting more than once. Yellow jackets are a particularly aggressive type of wasp, and they can also sting multiple times. Hornets are also simply another name for a type of wasp.

It is normal for you to experience swelling, reddening, a sharp pain that turns into a dull ache, and itching with these stings. If you have other complications like a headache, seek medical attention.


How to Treat a Bee Sting

  1. If you have a history of severe bee sting reactions or reactions to other insect stings, call emergency medical services.
  2. If the bee stinger is still present, remove it immediately. Gently scrape the skin with a credit card, your thumbnail, or a blunt knife. 
  3. Don’t pull out the stinger or pinch the stinger with your fingers or tweezers. This will only release more venom into the skin.
  4. After the stinger is eased out with the credit card, apply ice or cold packs to constrict the capillaries, reduce swelling, and mitigate the pain.
  5. Even though the area might become itchy, try not to scratch it. Dirt or other microbes from the surface of the skin could get into the sting and cause an infection.
  6. It’s better to  clean the area with soap and water and apply hydrocortisone cream or a mixture of baking soda and water (which will help the itching and discomfort).
  7. If no other treatment is available, apply a slice of onion to the spot and hold it for a minute or so.

Remember that bees (and wasps) can also be very beneficial to your garden. Bees are most responsible for pollination, and wasps eat many other pests like tomato hornworms. If you feel that you can coexist with bees, here are tips for attracting them to your garden. Preventing bee and wasp stings is all about understanding the insects. 

About The Author

Jennifer Keating

Jennifer is the Associate Digital Editor at The Old Farmer’s Almanac. She is an active equestrian and spends much of her free time at the barn. When she’s not riding, she loves caring for her collection of house plants, baking, and playing in her gardens. Read More from Jennifer Keating

No content available.