Some people wonder whether bee stings are dangerous, and how likely they are to be stung by a bee. Here are some common questions about bee stings:
'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?'.
On top of these questions, there are many assumptions about bee stings, many of which are wrong. So here are some facts about bee stings:
For a start, male bees cannot sting at all.
There is also a large group of bees known as stingless bees. In any event, bees are not out to attack anyone for the sake of it.
A sting is a defensive reaction to a perceived threat. Bees are generally non-aggressive and will only sting if they are provoked or feel threatened.
Note, however, that if (for example) you accidentally almost step on a bee, it may feel threatened and sting. It's best to avoid trying to man-handle them - including the cuddly looking bumble bees.
If you are worried about the possibility of being stung, then it may help to put the dangers in perspective. For example: How many times did you fall over as a kid, bump your head, cut yourself, get hit or have your hair pulled in a play ground squabble? I bet it was more often than you were stung by a bee!
Most of the time, bees go about their business and don't bother us. Think of the last time you walked through a garden or public park full of flowers. The bees go about their business, and are largely unnoticed.
A sting from a bumble bee is unfortunate rather than common.
Bumble bees 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.
Contact a beekeeper via your local beekeeping association if you need assistance to move a swarm.
If you are concerned generally about bee stings, there are actions you can take to prevent them.
I think it's worth having reference points to help us understand how dangerous bee stings really are, so that we can be realistic about the threat they pose to us.
So here are some statistical facts:
Here are the actual statistics:
Meanwhile, in the year 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).
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 general threat to humans.
Well, unless a
person has a very severe and life-threatening bee sting allergy (which in itself is not very common) the average person can safely tolerate
10 stings per pound of body weight.
In fact, the average adult can withstand more than 1000 stings, although 500 stings could kill a child.
The Merck Manual of Diagnosis & Therapy).
Given that most bee species are solitary and not aggressive, and that bumble bees live in small colonies, a person is unlikely to receive so many stings in one go.
Realistically, the only way a person could be stung so many times in one go, would be due to the aggravation of a colony or swarm of honey bees. Such scenarios can usually be avoided.
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 it tries 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.
Bumble bees have a smooth stinger, and are able to sting repeatedly, but bumble bees are rarely aggressive. You can read more about this subject here.
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.
Bumble bee 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 bumble bee.
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 help relieve stings. Find out about more home remedies and natural treatments.
However, if you are worried about being stung, you could also try a repellent to avoid being stung in the first place:
Please note: as an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases for links to Amazon products.
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 bees is known as apiphobia. Fear of bee stings can sometimes result in people developing 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!).
There is also a theory that bee venom can be used in beauty treatments - read more here.
Learn more facts about stings....here 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:
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