Bee Stings: Prevention and Treatment

How to Treat a Bee Sting

September 18, 2019

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. To teach your kids more about these pretty remarkable insects, click here.


Reader Comments

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Remove Stinger

Snuff or Mud are the best home remedies to remove stinger from a bee sting! It removes stinger immediately!

Yes, meat tenderizer!

I'm a little surprised that the use of meat tenderizer isn't mentioned. All the other pain-relieving remedies are effective as well, however, so I guess it's just what you have on hand and feel good about trying. A paste of meat tenderizer and water will immediately stop pain and throbbing and is fairly fast to whip up, assuming you have it in the pantry. A good memory I have of my dad involves him getting stung and coming into the house, asking me if I knew what to do. I mixed up the meat tenderizer paste, put it on the sting and he was amazed at how fast it stopped hurting. He was all excited that his son was able to help him and I was glad I could.

Bee Stings

I keep Benadryl in my medicine cabinet for stinging insects. One tablet does it. Since it makes me sleepy, I find it's a good excuse to take a nap, too!


I grew up on a ranch and have had my share of bee and ant stings. My father always used good old fashion mud ( dirt and water ) and put it directly on the sting. It worked and relived the pain quickly. Afterwards my mom would just wash the area with hydrogen peroxide to clean the area properly. Never pull out a bee sting. It will always make it worse. Find a card , toothbrush or even a credit card and gently scrape it off. Keep calm and remember the bee got the worst of it because one they sting you they die !

Mosquito Bites-Remedy

I have recently discovered that Witch Hazel is excellent for relieving the itching and swelling. I was surprised how quickly it works. I apply the witch hazel using a cotton ball and dab it on the bitten area. Natural apple cider vinegar works well also for bites and minor burns.

Wasp and bee sting treatment.

One treatment that I have found useful for many years for wasp and bee stings. I apply a cotton swab with LANDRY BLEACH as soon as I can on the sting location. This seems to neutralize and relieve the pain of the sting. It has worked for me many times.

Homemade spray to kill mosquitoes outside

I saw this article last year I think. Thought I saved it but can't find it. Epsom salts and mouthwash are two of the ingredients but can't remember the rest. Do you have the recipe? Thanks!

bee and hornet stings

Recently, I was stung by a hornet. I knew I had nothing to relieve the itch and pain that was accompanied by it. Finally, I thought about how Calendula was good for a lot of things and decided to give it a try on the bite. I picked a flower top and rubbed it as hard as I could into the bite area. With-in a few seconds the itch was gone along with the pain. Now I keep my calendula flowers close at hand during the Summer months. It has been a great relief to me and my visitors.

Bugs and stuff in drinks

Every person more than once is bothered by BUGS: sand gnat, sand fleas, no-see-um, flies, bees, wasps and everything that wants what you have in that drink container, so they're attracted to you.

An easy low cost way to reduce this problem is to have a solid cover on top of the container, no holes, no straws or slurpee type lids.

Drink container protectors are now the rage, when you Google them a bunch pops up, a reusable low cost, neat one is made in the USA at Pittsburgh Pa, it works on glasses and you can flip it over and it also works on cans.

I find out using it at work it also keeps people germs from getting in my coffee mug, plus keeps it from becoming cold.

bee stings

There is something you can do to alleviate the pain of a sting. Onion juice. Just a little. If it does not work instantly, you probably need to remove a stinger. So if you are going into bee country, carry a small onion. Maybe chop it up and put it into a baggy.

Bee or wasp stings

The article states,
Even though the area might become itchy, try not to itch it.
it should say,

Even though the area might become itchy, try not to SCRATCH


The Editors's picture

Oops! Thank you for your comment! The article has been updated.

When it comes to mosquito

When it comes to mosquito bites if I find the urge to itch unbearable I scratch until the small bump forms on my skin. Afterwards I squeeze the bump like a pimple until all the clear liquid is gone and only blood comes out. This to me is the easiest way to keep mosquito bites from itching for too long.

Dilute 1 tablespoon vanilla

Dilute 1 tablespoon vanilla extract with 1 cup water and wipe the mixture on your exposed skin to discourage mosquitoes, blackflies, and ticks.

There was a preparation

There was a preparation called afterbite that was sold and works very well. You can make your own for a lot less money by mixing 1 part ammonia (clear, non detergent) and 1 part baby oil/olive oil or almond oil. Apply to the sting/bite. The ammonia neutralizes the sting venom and the oil soothes the skin. I received this information from a pharmacist and I am a retired RN.

mosquito bites

I used to use afterbite which I never found all that effective. Then I used a drop of ammonia which was more effective. But now I use a drop of Frankincense. The Frankincense not only numbs more quickly but in a few minutes you will forget you were ever bitten. Give it a try !

scorpion sting. Will baking

scorpion sting. Will baking soda and vinegar. Will it help?

Clear nail polish, cover a

Clear nail polish, cover a mosquito bite with clear nail polish, must be clear, colored polish doesn't work. Itch stops immediately! Keep it up until the bite disappears.

The best remedy I have *ever*

The best remedy I have *ever* used for mosquito, yellow fly & bee/wasp stings is meat tenderizer. Yes, you read correctly, meat tenderizer. The meat tenderizer draws the poison out of the bite/sting, helps reduce swelling & speeds up healing.

Make a paste with the meat tenderizer & water (or witch hazel) and apply it to the bite/sting for about 15-20 minutes, then rinse off with cool water. My mom told me about this remedy the first time I got stung by a wasp. After leaving the paste on the sting for about 20 minutes there was zero swelling, zero pain & the only evidence left of the sting was a tiny red dot where the stinger went in.

When I've been bitten by yellow flies, I've found mixing the meat tenderizer with witch hazel to be particularly effective in reducing the infernal itching, and it also causes the blistering to happen sooner, which in turn speeds up healing. But, most importantly, it is the *only* remedy I have used that helps with the itching. Forget hydrocortisone, yellow fly bites laugh at it, but the meat tenderizer does the trick.

Hope this helps!! :)

It just happened like that I

It just happened like that I started feeling this sting on my skin and when ever I touch it it really burns any idea what it might be :)

My mother always made a paste

My mother always made a paste of baking soda and vinegar to put on our bee stings.

vinegar and baking soda for bee sting

It works, the baking soda and apple cider vinegar. My mother always would put a little baking soda together with the apple cider vinegar, it would make a paste and she would put it immediately on the bee sting, instantly it would take the sting away. It never failed.

put a small amount of water

put a small amount of water in a spoon add an aspirin Let melt Rube the solution on the bite In a couple minutes itch has gone

Who said tick-bites don`t

Who said tick-bites don`t hurt. I guess if you never get bitten by a tick it dosn't hurt

Tick bites

I have been bitten by a tick and had no idea until quite awhile later when the tick was found on me. It did not hurt at all. Maybe it depends on the person?

"BurnAway Plus" Is the

"BurnAway Plus" Is the best!
It is marketed out of Oklahoma and is great for burns of all kinds, but an added feature is that it stops the itch from mosquito and chigger bites!!! Great product.

Any ideas for horse fly

Any ideas for horse fly bites?

I suffer from allergic reactions to them. The area swells right up, become hard and hard, itchy and sore. It is very hot to the touch. One bite can swell most of my leg up.

If I manage to take anti histamine in time, I can prevent swelling but often I'm too late. I even took the tablets immediately after a bite and the swelling went down but came up very quickly later on.

Any ideas for relief?

As soon as you notice the

The Editors's picture

As soon as you notice the bite, put saliva on it. (Really!) When you can get to a sink or hose, wash the bite well with soap and water. Pat dry and then apply a hot salt-water compress. Other remedies to reduce the pain are vinegar, aloe, or raw onion.

My granddaughter is highly

My granddaughter is highly allergic to most insect bites of any kind in which swell her up tremendously as well. We found Borein Arnica Gel at Walmart for 8.00 to be the answer to all swelling from bites. It immediately takes out the swelling and pain. She also has allergies and begins to go crazy itching in which it stops the itching fast as well. We carry a tube where ever we go for quick relief.. It is all natural, made from Arnica Montana flowers..