Dr. Penny Pincher has a Ph.D. in engineering and loves animals. He has raised peacocks, chickens, sheep, dogs, cats, rabbits, and pigs.
Do bumblebees sting?
I have spent a lot of time outdoors and have had many encounters with bumblebees. My experience is that bumblebees generally ignore people. They make a loud buzzing sound as they fly, which is enough to make most people cautious around them. They have bold black and yellow coloring and look dangerous. But can they sting?
Today, I found out whether they sting—and yes, they do! I was harvesting tomatoes about one hour after sunrise from a thick, dense tomato plant. I reached into the leaves and vines to pick a tomato. I felt an intense sting and pulled my hand out in time to see a bumblebee on my wrist. The bee dropped to the ground after stinging me. Unlike honey bees, bumblebees are not harmed by stinging and can sting more than once.
Do bumblebee stings hurt?
Yes, they do. I would describe the immediate pain level within several seconds after the sting as sort of like a pin prick. Enough to notice, but not too bad. Within 10 to 20 seconds, the pain increased quite a bit and was quite painful. A bumblebee sting is certainly unpleasant, but not as bad as a wasp sting. The fairly intense pain and stinging sensation went on for about 10 minutes. The bump and redness around the sting persisted for about 60 minutes. Within 90 minutes, all symptoms were gone.
What are the symptoms of a bumblebee sting?
If you get stung, you’ll know it. The first and most obvious symptom is pain. Within a minute of the sting, you will see swelling around the sting and redness in the area. The site of the sting where the stinger penetrated the skin may be visible as well.
Do you need treatment for a bumble bee sting?
Most people will not need any treatment at all for the sting. The pain and swelling will pass within 90 minutes. Generally you do not need to go to a doctor, and no treatment is needed. Find something to do to distract yourself from the pain and swelling for a short time until the symptoms pass. If the pain bothers you, you can apply cold to the area of the sting and take an ibuprofen or aspirin.
Some people are more sensitive to bee stings and may have allergies that make the symptoms much more intense. If you see major swelling beginning after being stung by a bee, this may be an allergic reaction and you should see a doctor right away. However, this is fairly rare and most people will not be impacted very much by the sting.
Does a bee sting or a wasp sting hurt more?
I have been stung by yellow jacket wasps in the past. I would say wasp stings are more painful and hurt longer than bumblebee stings. The wasp sting not only hurt but made me tired and raised goose bumps all over my body and made me feel a little dizzy. The bumblebee sting symptoms were much milder. Of course, I would avoid both types of stings, but I would take a bumblebee sting if I had to choose one.
Can a bumblebee sting kill a dog or cat?
As for people, the symptoms for a bumblebee sting for dogs and cats are also mild in most cases. The dog or cat may be bothered by the sting for a couple hours, but the symptoms will pass and no treatment is needed. However, if severe swelling or difficulty breathing occurs, this may indicate an allergic reaction—seek treatment from a veterinarian immediately in the unlikely event of severe symptoms in your pet from a bee sting.
How to avoid getting stung by bumblebees
Bumblebees are not aggressive, so you can usually avoid getting stung by slowly moving out of their path. These bees make nests underground. I once had one of these nest in my garden, and I would work carefully around the opening to the nest since there were lots of bumblebees coming and going. I ignored them, and they ignored me. If you have kids, warn them not to try to pick up a bumblebee, as this would likely result in a sting.
As I mentioned earlier, I got stung by a bumblebee by touching one accidentally. I suspect that she was resting on the tomato that I was picking. Yes, it was a "she"- only females can sting.
Should I kill bumblebees or remove nests to keep my kids and pets safe?
Since bumblebees are not aggressive, and their stings are not very dangerous, there is no reason to kill them or destroy their nests. Simple avoid touching them to avoid their stings.
I like to watch bumblebees at work pollinating flowers in my garden and along nature trails. While I was taking pictures of them on prairie flowers, one of them nearly landed on my hand. I almost dropped my cell phone moving my hand away after getting the picture. I guess I was pressing my luck having my hand so close to them!
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and does not substitute for diagnosis, prognosis, treatment, prescription, and/or dietary advice from a licensed health professional. Drugs, supplements, and natural remedies may have dangerous side effects. If pregnant or nursing, consult with a qualified provider on an individual basis. Seek immediate help if you are experiencing a medical emergency.
Questions & Answers
Question: It has been four days, and my bee sting site is hard, swollen and red. It itches a lot. I'm not sure what kind of bee it was. Could have been a yellow jacket. It was very small. Is this normal?
Answer: In my experience, bee stings or wasp stings can be sore and itchy for a few days. Here is some further information on when to seek medical attention for a bee sting or wasp sting:
© 2013 Dr Penny Pincher
JessicaBarvura on April 27, 2018:
Hello, i thoght I got stung by a bee but my family says that is not a bee sting.
Dr Penny Pincher (author) from Iowa, USA on September 07, 2013:
Friends, thank you for sharing your experience with bumblebees and treating stings.
tmbridgeland from Small Town, Illinois on September 07, 2013:
Bumble bees sting like the dickens, but usually only if you are near their nest opening. I have been stung a few times. Had one land on my arm and start crawling around. Could not resist the urge to slap it. Naturally, it didn't like that. Now I mostly leave them alone. Have a nest in my back yard shed. So far, no trouble...
Patricia Scott from North Central Florida on September 07, 2013:
I was stung several times as a child as I often played in clover and the bumblie bees as I called them liked the clover too. I was very allergic so it was a bit of a big deal when I was stung.
As an adult I carry and epi pen with me as any sting like that is not a good thing.
Angels are on the way...
kidscrafts from Ottawa, Canada on September 07, 2013:
For any sting I use tea tree oil! It's a must have in any household because it helps also for burns and cuts. It's almost a miracle cure; it calms down the pain, it repairs the cut, it's a powerful disinfectant. But for sure as you said, anybody having an allergic reaction....run to see your doctor or to the emergency!
I didn't know that bumblebees could sting! They seem so busy with their own business!
Thanks for sharing!