Why Do Honey Bees Sting People? thumbnail image

Why Do Honey Bees Sting People?

As wonderful and fascinating as honey bees are, we were taught to keep our distance from them, so they don’t sting us. They make the world more colorful as its natural pollinators, but bee stings can cause pain, and they’re even dangerous if you get an allergic reaction to them and other symptoms like swelling.

Even the most experienced beekeepers use protective clothing and other beekeeping equipment to prevent stings.

But why do bees sting, exactly? There are many misconceptions surrounding this topic. Find out the truth with this overview of why honey bees sting people.


Many people think bees sting because they’re angry or aggressive. But the truth is, bees are more likely to feel scared or defensive when they sting and release bee venom. When they do, the stinger gets stuck in your skin and is difficult to remove. This means the stinger is ripped out of the bee’s body, killing the bee as a result.

Stinging is usually a bee’s last resort when they feel threatened. If you keep your distance and respect bees when you come across them, they will leave you alone.

Hive Defense

Honeybees have a strong focus on protecting their hive. This is where the queen, her brood, and the entire colony’s food source reside, making it extremely valuable to bees. One of the biggest reasons honey bees sting people is they feel you are a threat to their hive. When they feel you are threatening, the bees are likely to attack.

This is why it’s important to leave beehives alone when you find them. Don’t disturb or mess with the hive, watch where you step, and avoid blocking the hive’s entrance so the bees can come in and out as they please.


Despite being mostly peaceful and curious creatures, you may notice an entire bee colony quickly becomes agitated and aggressive if one colony member stings you. This is because bees release pheromones when they sting.

This pheromone acts as an alarm for their nearby brethren, agitating them so that they come to help defend the hive and join the persistent attack. If a single sting turns into many more, it’s because that first bee released an alarm pheromone.

Bee Sting Remedy

When coming across a hive, instinct tells you to avoid bee stings. Anyone stung by a bee knows too well the pain a bee sting can give. Bee stings hurt and can even cause a severe allergic reaction when not tended well. When prevention becomes inevitable, here are remedies to neutralize that bee sting and severe reaction.

Sting Removal

When a honey bee stings, its stinger is usually left latched in your skin. This stinger continues to pump toxin into your body, so removing it is the top priority.

When removing a bee’s stinger, scraping it off your skin is better than pulling it out. A pull might squeeze the venom sac and add more venom to the wound. If you don’t have the right tools, use your fingernail to remove the stinger from your skin.

Cleaning the sting wound with soap and water would be the last step for disinfection. Carefully observe yourself, particularly your skin, for other reactions to bee stings.

Ice Therapy

When stung by a bee, itching, redness, and swelling are the most common symptoms seen, thanks partially to bee venom. When these symptoms occur, it’s important to get medical attention. Put an ice pack and do a cold compress on the affected area. This is one of the best home remedies you can use. Its healing properties can reduce inflammation and the pain and redness that go with the swelling.

Along with taking some antihistamine and painkillers, the painful wound would subside. All that is needed is for the injury to heal in the next few hours or days.

Allergy Remedy

Reactions to bee stings can vary. Unfortunately, bee venom can trigger allergies. Some victims that are stung even experience anaphylactic shock, a term used when a severe allergic reaction happens after a bee sting and getting bee venom.

Here are anaphylactic shock symptoms to look out for:

  • Chest pains
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Dry cough
  • Eye irritation
  • Hives
  • Loss of consciousness
  • Vomiting

Anaphylaxis is life-threatening and those who experience it should get emergency medical treatment.

Administer epinephrine to counter an allergic response in the body. This stimulates the heart and helps release a natural antidote to combat bee venom. A beta-agonist should also help relieve if symptoms affect the victim’s respiratory system.

Reminder: When sting wounds do not subside, or pain and symptoms like swelling worsen, it’s best to seek medical attention in your nearest hospital.

Know Your Bees

A buzzing bee immediately alerts one’s mind that a bee sting could happen anytime. It is a mighty force, stinging people and releasing bee venom. Let’s get to know the little buzzers and their unique characteristics.

Honey Bees

This type of bee usually lives in large colonies, both in the wild and domestic settings. Without them, most would not be enjoying the goodness of honey in our homes.

These bees use pheromones for communication. This ensures they are always aware of their environment and ready to fend off any intruders.

Honey bees lose their barbed stingers after stinging, resulting in immediate death. But their combined number in the hive make it fatal to the victims receiving a barrage of honey bee stings.

Honey bees are famously known for their tan or yellow color combined with black. They are smaller and thinner than bumble bees—a detail people usually notice to mistake them for wasps.

Bumble Bees

Bumble bees generally live in smaller colonies. But despite their smaller numbers, they are a force to be reckoned with. A bumble bee can sting multiple times, unlike the honey bee that instantly dies after a sting.

The bumble bee is less aggressive compared to its honey bee cousins. It is only observed to sting when placed in disturbance, especially in its nest.

These bees are easily identified by their puffy fur and dominantly black coloring with a few orange, white, and yellow stripes. They fly around with their stubby wings.

Carpenter Bees

Carpenter bees are commonly seen everywhere and are mostly active during spring. Male carpenter bees act territorial but can’t sting while female carpenter bees are forced to sting only when pressed to a corner or provoked.

Their thorax and midsection are covered with yellow fuzz. Males have yellow faces and females have black faces and black hairs on their hind legs.

Fun Fact: Bees are responsible for pollinating about a third of the world’s food supply. Without their help, the world would be without chocolate, coffee, and other well-loved foods. They are not just here to sting people.

Learn About Hive Hierarchy

It’s important to know the interesting chain of command that buzzes inside the hive because this affects the motivation of bees to sting. There are three main types of bees in a hive: the queen bee, worker bees, and drone bees.

Queen Bee

At the top sits the monarch, which is noticeably larger when compared to others in the hive. Its main function is to lay eggs and maintain the population. There’s only one queen in a colony, and she lays approximately 1,500 eggs in a single day.

The honey may be sweet, but nature is not—for when a second queen emerges, the bees push the invading queen out, or the queens battle their way to the throne until one dies.

Queen bees do have stingers. But they rarely sting people because they don’t participate in hive defense. They use their stingers more to fight rival queens.

Worker Bees

Swarming most of the time beside the queens are these workers. They are usually responsible for the bee sting one encounters.

They serve their queen by maintaining and expanding their hive and protecting her. Their work includes nectar and pollen collection, wax creation, and ensuring the queen is not left hungry.

They are female bees, but reproducing is not on their cards.

Drone Bees

Drone bees are males. Unlike their female counterparts, you don’t need to worry about their bee sting.

Drones don’t have stingers. Their primary role is to scout and keep the population steady by mating with the queen. Some live their lives unable to fulfill their function as there’s only one queen in the colony.

Other Common Insects That Sting

Other insect stings are equally as painful or sometimes more compared to bee stings. These insects may differ in looks and where you may find them. But getting them all upset will get you stung. Here are common stinging insects to watch out for:

  • Wasps: They are closely related to bumble bees but have skinnier and shinier bodies. The most common wasps are hornets and yellow jackets.
  • Ants: Not all kinds of ants can sting. The ones that do often come in red and black colors. These small but terrible insects usually live in colonies, ready to sting those that invade their homes.


Why do bees sting? It’s a defense mechanism to defend themselves and their hives.

Simply avoiding them and staying away from their hives can be enough to avoid bee stings and their venom. But when the inevitable happens, make sure to get medical treatment. Remove the stinger from your skin, do a cold compress to ease itching, redness, and swelling, and watch out for a severe allergic reaction that can be life-threatening.

Learn more about bees here at Mann Lake. Whether you are looking for the right equipment for beekeeping or simply trying to learn more about bees, our blog can surely help.

white bee suit for protection

large operational extractor for beekeepers