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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Mix meat tenderizer with

Mix meat tenderizer with witch hazel to make a paste. Apply to the bite for about 15-20 minutes, then rinse off with cool water.

The papain in the meat tenderizer draws out the poison, providing relief of the itching (the witch hazel helps with that, too, since it's an astringent). This works for me for yellow fly bites (which I'm *very* allergic to), so I'm assuming it will help with horse fly bites, too. I'll also use the witch hazel to help cool down the bite.

I haven't found anything yet that helps with the hardness or the swelling, but to me, the worst part is the itching.

Hope this helps! :)

The best thing I have found

The best thing I have found for mosquito bites is to cut a clove of garlic in half and give it a good sqeeze to get it juicy and rib it right on the bite. In 10 minutes or less the itching and swelling are gone completely. I am allergic to mosquitos and I use this and I have no problems.

Today, I went to the beach

Today, I went to the beach front with my children. I found a sea shell and gave it to my 4 year old daughter and said "You can hear the ocean if you put this to your ear." She put the shell to her ear and screamed. There was a hermit crab inside and it pinched her ear. She never wants to go back! LoL I know this is entirely off topic but I had to tell someone!|

It counts cause it is a

It counts cause it is a BITE!To remedie this I reccomend a quick check of all SHELLS to be sure nothing resides with in said SHELL.LOL

I'm a mosquito magnet too. I

I'm a mosquito magnet too. I don't have to wait til evening for their attack. Recently, a friend saw bites on my legs and she gave me a sachet of peptirub. I couldn't find it in our local drug store but saw this on the net

Vinegar ? really? lol, I'm

Vinegar ? really? lol, I'm surprised, never heard about it, thanks for sharing.

Yup! And if you have many

Yup! And if you have many bites you can take a nice hot bath by adding about 2.5 cups of vinegar to the water and just soak in there.


Google " uses of vinegar " It

Google " uses of vinegar " It will amaze you!!

bee and wasps stings..

bee and wasps stings.. toothpaste asap
no pain, no swelling
if allergic, seek medical aid

I agree with most of the

I agree with most of the remedies on here. I had 6 kids and we dealt with a lot of bites over the years. The toothpaste remedy was found out by accident. I worked a fire lookout. One day 2 hikers came up and it was the last day of the season so I was closing the tower. Everything I normally kept in the tower was already hauled down. Both hikers were covered in bee stings. The only thing I had to offer was colgate toothpaste. They told me they felt immediate relief from the burning stings and when I saw them the next day in town, They told me that the swelling and irritation immediately went away. I now keep colgate toothpaste in my medical bag.

I experienced fire ant bites

I experienced fire ant bites stepping on a curb near a Starbucks store. The manager gave me a banana skin and instructed me to rub the inside of the skin on the ant bites which I did. Relief was immediate! I still don't know why, but it was successful.

What about fire ant bites?

What about fire ant bites? Does anybody have any really good ideas on how to deal with them?

Hi, Mima, Elevate the bitten

The Editors's picture

Hi, Mima, Elevate the bitten area and apply ice or a cold compress. To relieve pain, it may help to use anti-itch medications, such as hydrocortisone cream, or a solution of half-bleach and half-water on the sting. Do not break any pustule that has formed to avoid infection. Wash gently.

Mima, in Miami, Fl. at a

Mima, in Miami, Fl. at a fruil & tree park, they put tiger balm on me when fire ants covered both feet, it was very painful. It was very soothing, & drew the poison out. I bought some & brought it home with me. It works on hornets, wasps mosquitas, we use it on any sting. You can buy it at Wal-Mart.

didnt know that about vinegar

didnt know that about vinegar - not surprised! vinegar has many amazing uses! for bee, mosquito, chiggers bites, I simply use Caladryl lotion. Works great!

get the ofa "tick key"!! it

get the ofa "tick key"!! it is great and works so easily! best invention out there if you are one who is outside alot like my husband and i are!! thanks old farmers almanac!!

if you must scratch mosquito

if you must scratch mosquito or bee stings do not scratch directly on top of the bite, scratch around the bite, just as soothing but doesn't irritate the bite

a paste of meat tenderizer

a paste of meat tenderizer works great on bee stings

Meat tenderizer works for me

Meat tenderizer works for me everytime on stings!!

For stings: The best remedy

For stings: The best remedy for dealing with major stings is nicotine. A scorpion sting's pain can be halted in its tracks by smearing the nicotine from a smoking pipe filter across the area of the sting. There will be some 'throbbing' but the pain should stop almost immediately.

If you get stung by an ASP aka Texas Puss Caterpillar make half a dozen inverted loops of tape one and a half inch to two inches in diameter(sticky side out). Insert two fingers into tape roll, then roll the loop of tape across the area of the sting JUST ONCE! Only roll the loop of tape until you come to the area where you started rolling, stop there and drop it into the garbage can. You are removing the fine stinging hairs that cannot be seen with the naked eye. Continue rolling the succeeding loops of tape, until you're out of loops of tape. Six should do the trick, unless you touched numerous areas of skin against the Asp.

Then smear the nicotine from a smoking pipe filter across the sting and cover with a patch and don't wash the area for 24 hrs. If you don't have a smoking pipe filter, use a small rolled up wad of Beechnut leaf chewing tobacco that has been moistened with tap water, just enough so that the nicotine begins to color your finger tips. Flatten the wetted chewing tobacco on the surface of the sting and keep it in place by 'X' two large bandaids over it to hold it in place. A large square athletic band-aid works as well. I've used a piece of Saran-Wrap over the tobacco and then used an ACE bandage wrapped over the top of the Saran-Wrap to hold it in place for 24 hrs.

Count yourself lucky if you've never been stung by an Asp. The misleading part is that if you've never been stung by one, you don't realize that you've just been stung when you first come into contact with an Asp, because unlike bees, wasps, scorpions and such there is absolutely no bite or puncture that hurts with the 'contact' that will eventually spread the poison into your body.

The spread of the Asp poison and pain lasts approx 18 - 22 hrs. If you take no steps to remove the fine stinging hairs, or applied nicotine to fight the stinging poison, you are in for bone-breaking feeling of pain of un-imaginable agony for nearly a day.

Asp stings can cause DEATHS, due to blood poisoning in some cases. The factor to 'look' for in a victim of an Asp sting is a RED LINE under the skin leading from the area of the sting, up towards the shoulder, in the case of a stung hand or arm. Or a red line going up the leg towards the torso. ***IMMEDIATE*** transport to an Emergency Room at a local hospital is required at this point, if the 'red line' appears on the victim's skin.

I use straight ammonia on

I use straight ammonia on itchy bug bites. Works every time; it's what they put in the "afterbite" stuff, if you read the ingredients it is mostly ammonia.

Ammonia absolutely works the

Ammonia absolutely works the best! But you have to put it on the mosquito bite immediately after the bite happens, for best results!

The sap of Jewlweed is great

The sap of Jewlweed is great for taking the sting out of insect bites, the itch out of Poison Ivy and the sting out of stinging nettle. I have used it myself on more than one occasion. It is also a great nectar plant for hummingbirds during the fall migration as it blooms late summer into fall.

The Indians called Jewelweed

The Indians called Jewelweed Waterweed --- some call it "Wild Touch Me Not" --- great for poison ivy.

Common Plantain.. a Herb

Common Plantain.. a Herb ."weed" in the lawn of about everyone once called "white man's foot" by the Native Americans round shaped leaves in a rosette and a small spike growing from the center.. take leaf of this ween and rub it on the sting after the stinger is removed.. it releaves the pain of the sting in about 30 to 45 seconds... don't know why it works but it does.. the herb books claim it is edible high in vitimins but I find it too stringy.. root relives toothache pain...

I have also found that if I

I have also found that if I wash with plain water immediatly after being bit by mosquitos does help, then I apply Triple Antiobiotic Ointment. You may have to apply the Ointment a couple of times but it works for me.

I have found that if I just

I have found that if I just simply spit on my finger and rub a mosquito or fire ant bit with my own saliva it stops burning and itching. Your own saliva has the antibiotic to treat the area. The itching is caused by antibiotics rushing to the bit and by applying your own saliva the is no need for the rush. Next time you get bit, spit on it right away and you are in for a pleasant surprise.

I put my own spit on the bite

I put my own spit on the bite for me !!!

Mosquito bites can bother me

Mosquito bites can bother me for days, with no relief from anti-itch preparations. I have found that the best remedy is to treat the bite with a hot compress, as hot as can be tolerated. It works best if it is done as soon after the bite occurs. If treated immediately, most mosquito bites disappear within a matter of minutes, with no residual itching. I am not sure of the mechanics of this remedy, but it seems to do the trick.

this is so true. I learned

this is so true. I learned this trick from my father many years ago. I basically have to use scorching hot water just for a few seconds and then it won't itch me for another 24hrs. great remedy :)