Bee Sting Facts

Bee Sting Facts vs Fiction:

'Could a bee sting be fatal?'

'Could I be stung to death?'

'Do all bees die when they sting you?'

'What is ‘anaphylaxis'?'.

'Do all bees sting?'.

'Are bees dangerous?'.

There are many assumptions about bee stings, many of which are wrong!  So what are the facts about bee stings?

Some Bee Sting Facts Which May Surprise You.....

Read these quick and interesting facts about bee stings to learn more:

Not all bees can sting!

Male bees cannot.  There is also a large group of bees known as stingless beesIn any event, bees are not out to attack anyone for the sake of it.  A sting is a defensive reaction to a perceived threat.

Hence, bees will only sting if they are provoked or feel threatened.  Bees are generally non-aggressive.  How many times did you fall over as a kid, bump your head, cut yourself, get hit in a play ground squabble – I bet it was more often than you were stung by a bee!  Think of walking through a garden or public park full of flowers.  The bees go about their business, and are largely unnoticed.

A sting from a bumblebee is unfortunate rather than common. 
Bumblebees and solitary bees are usually very docile, and stinging is rare for most species. 

Honey bees could sting if aggravated. Swarming honey bees are 'drunk' on the honey they have consumed prior to swarming, and are only a problem if they are aggravated/provoked, or if they are having difficulty locating a suitable nest site, meaning they are becoming hungry. Of course, if you're a beekeeper, your chances of being stung are obviously increased!

If you are concerned, there are actions you can take to prevent bee stings.

Getting statistics can be difficult, but in 2000, the World Health Organisation reported that in the USA, .....

there were only 54 deaths attributable to bee stings – from a population of 281 million people (Census data). 

And yet:

  • in the same year, there were 15,517 murders in the USA (FBI crime figures) - there is a greater chance you'll be murdered by a fellow human, than die from being stung by a bee!
  • more than 20,000 people in the USA die from flu every year (U.S. Centers for Disease Control);
  • even lightning kills more people than bee stings! On average, 90 people are killed every year in the U.S. by lightning. [NOAA Technical Memorandum NWS SR-193].

    As for death by traffic accident....!!

I wanted to provide this information merely as an antidote to the reports you may hear that seem to give the impression bees are a serious dangerous and pose a threat to humans.  

So why are fatalities from bee stings so rare?  Well, unless a person has a bee sting allergy, the average person can safely tolerate 10 stings per pound of body weight.

The average adult can withstand more than 1000 stings, although 500 stings could kill a child.

(Source: The Merck Manual of Diagnosis & Therapy).

A bee stinger contains different toxins - or bee venom - to that of a wasp. Thus, a person who has an allergy to wasp stings may not suffer from a bee sting allergy! You can find out more about reactions here.

Honey bee worker (females) will die if they sting you. This is because honey bee workers have barbed stings, causing the stinger to get lodged in the skin of mammals (including humans). This is fatal to the honey bee when they try to pull away from the victim, and the bee will die after the stinging incident.  However, honey bees can sting insect predators repeatedly. Male honey bees (drones) cannot sting.

Queen honey bees are able to sting repeatedly, but queens rarely venture out of hives, and would be more likely to use their stings against rival queens.

Bumblebees have a smooth stinger, and are able to sting repeatedly, but bumblebees are rarely aggressive.

The sting is actually a modified ovipositor, and can be used for laying eggs. Worker honey bees may lay eggs if a hive or nest becomes queenless.

Bumblebee workers may lay eggs when the queen begins to lay (unfertilized) eggs destined to develop into males.   This usually results in conflict within the colony between the workers and the queen bumblebee.  Writings vary, but it is proposed that when the queen ceases to produce a pheromone (believed) to control the egg laying ability of her workers, (who may otherwise lay eggs – all of which would develop into males. 

Onions, toothpaste and lemons are all believed to relieve stings! Find out about more home remedies and natural treatments. 

You could also try a repellent to avoid being stung in the first place:

Repel - is available from Amazon US or

Incognito - is available from Amazon UK.

In the event that you are stung, you might like to try a Venom Extractor Kit - this is obviously something you would need to have in your first aid kit as a precaution, and in advance of the stinging event occurring.

Fear of bee stings can sometimes result in people developing a fear of bees, which is known as apiphobia.

It is a fact that an extreme reaction to bee stings can include anaphylaxis, which is a state of shock, but this is rare. 

Indeed, whilst some people may have a reaction to a sting, relatively few people have a very severe allergy to stings from bees.  However, if they do and are aware of it, they may carry with them an ‘Epipen’ with which to treat the sting. Learn more about treating stings on this link, and read about reactions here.

Some propose that bee stings or apitherapy, can reduce arthritis symptoms.  I have not seen any evidence to support or refute this claim (if you are aware of any, please let me know!). 

Learn more facts about is an amazing book, in which one man set out to do just that, and in doing so, allowed himself to be stung by different insects!  The author, Justin O. Schmidt was awarded the Ig Nobel Prize for physiology and entomology in 2015:

"Entomologist Justin O. Schmidt is on a mission. Some say it’s a brave exploration, others shake their heads in disbelief. His goal? To compare the impacts of stinging insects on humans, mainly using himself as the gauge.

In The Sting of the Wild, the colorful Dr. Schmidt takes us on a journey inside the lives of stinging insects, seeing the world through their eyes as well as his own. He explains how and why they attack and reveals the powerful punch they can deliver with a small venom gland and a "sting," the name for the apparatus that delivers the venom. We learn which insects are the worst to encounter and why some are barely worth considering.

The Sting of the Wild includes the complete Schmidt Sting Pain Index, published here for the first time. In addition to a numerical ranking of the agony of each of the eighty-three stings he’s sampled so far (from below 1 to an excruciatingly painful 4), Schmidt describes them in prose worthy of a professional wine critic: "Looks deceive. Rich and full-bodied in appearance, but flavorless" and "Pure, intense, brilliant pain. Like walking over flaming charcoal with a three-inch nail embedded in your heel."

Schmidt explains that, for some insects, stinging is used for hunting: small wasps, for example, can paralyze huge caterpillars and then lay their eggs inside so that their larvae can feast within. Others are used to kill competing insects, even members of their own species. Humans usually experience stings as defensive maneuvers used by insects to protect their nest mates.

With colorful descriptions of each venom’s sensation and a story that leaves you tingling with awe, The Sting of the Wild’s one-of-a-kind style will fire your imagination".

The Sting of the Wild is available from

It really is time, I think, to challenge the view that we should "kill something just in case".  Surely we have evolved beyond that?  Even wasps are valuable insects in their own right, performing an important role in the eco-system.  There are ways to deter wasps and prevent bee stings for those who really are concerned.

Go from Bee Sting Facts to:

Find out how to treat stings here.

Find out about reactions, including swellings and anaphylaxis.

Check out these natural & home remedies for stings!

Go back to Bee Stings introductory page

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