Bee Sting Facts

Bumble bee on restharrow.Bumble bee on restharrow.

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:

1. Not all bees can sting

Male bees, like this beautiful male white-tailed bumble bee (Bombus lucorum is not capable of stinging you.Male bees, like this beautiful male white-tailed bumble bee (Bombus lucorum is not capable of stinging you.


For a start, male bees cannot sting at all. 

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.  

So when are bees most likely to sting?


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.   

Worker bumble bee, foraging on ice plant and going about its business.Worker bumble bee, foraging on ice plant and going about its business.


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.

What are the chances of being stung by a bee?


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.

As a child, you probably grazed your knees in the playground, or had your hair pulled more often than you were stung by a bee!As a child, you probably grazed your knees in the playground, or had your hair pulled more often than you were stung by a bee!


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. 

Leave honey bee swarms alone - don't  provoke them in any way.  Contact a beekeeper via your local beekeeping association if assistance is needed to move the swarm.Leave honey bee swarms alone - don't provoke them in any way. Contact a beekeeper via your local beekeeping association if assistance is needed to move the swarm.


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.


2.  Are bees dangerous?  Can I be stung to death by bees?


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:

  • In the USA, there is a greater chance you'll be murdered by a fellow human, than die from being stung by a bee!
  • In the USA, you are more likely to die of the flu than bee stings.
  • Even lightning kills more people every year than bee stings!

Here are the actual statistics:

  • in the year 2000, there were 15,517 murders in the USA (FBI crime figures); 
  • more than 20,000 people in the USA die from flu every year (U.S. Centers for Disease Control);
  • 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'll leave you to guess or find out what those figures look like!

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).

In the USA, there is more chance of death by lightning strike than death by bee sting.In the USA, there is more chance of death by lightning strike than death by bee sting.


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.  

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3. Why are fatalities from bee stings so rare?

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.  

(Source: The Merck Manual of Diagnosis & Therapy)

Most solitary species rarely sting.  Here's a beautiful wool carder bee.Most solitary species rarely sting. Here's a beautiful wool carder bee.


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.

4. Are bee stings the same as wasp stings?

A wasp sting is not the same as a bee sting.  It contains different toxins.A wasp sting is not the same as a bee sting. It contains different toxins.


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.


5. Which bees die if they sting you?

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). 

A honey bee worker will die if she stings you.A honey bee worker will die if she stings you.


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.

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. 


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.

6. Is the bee's stinger only used for stinging?


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 on Scabiosa - Pincushion flower.Bumble bee on Scabiosa - Pincushion flower.


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. 


7.  Are there any natural home remedies for bee stings?


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.

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.

8.  What is apiphobia?

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


Lovely honey bee on knapweed.Lovely honey bee on knapweed.


9. Are reactions to bee stings serious?


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.


10.  Can bee stings or bee venom be used in health and beauty products?

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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"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 Amazon.com







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