Which Bee Has The Most Painful Sting?

On this website, you'll find lots of information about bee, wasp and hornet stings, including species comparisons.

On this page, we're going to look at answering the question: "which bee has the most painful sting?".

Which Bee Stings Hurt Most?  What The Science Tells Us

In 2019, an entomologist called Justin O Schmidt conducted research to investigate the sting pain of 78 insect species, of which 18 were bees.

First of all then, we have to recognize the limitations of the data, since there are thousands of different species in the world, and how could we possibly gather data for all of them?

Nevertheless, the research provides a reasonable sample of bees representing different families and genres (types of bees), such that we might be justified in suspecting that the data provides a reasonable picture of bee sting pain.

Which bee has the most painful sting?

From the data, the bee sting that hurt most came from a tropical species of carpenter bee (the giant Borneo carpenter bee).  But how painful was it, exactly?

Schmidt ranked the sting pain across all the insects he studied from 1 (least painful) to 4 (most painful). 

The giant Borneo carpenter bee ranked at 2.5.

All the other species had a less painful sting, with honey bees and the bumble bees about in the middle, whilst other species hardly registered on the pain scale at all.

SpeciesSting Pain
Pain Level
4Most Painful Sting
Xylocopa sp. (giant Bornean bee)2.5
Honey bees: Apis mellifera; Apis dorsata; Apis cerana
Bumble bees: Bombus impatiens; Bombus sonorus
Large carpenter bees: Xylocopa rufa; Xylocopa californica
Euglossa dilemma (orchid bee);
Apis florea (dwarf honey bee)
Xenoglossa angustior (squash bee);
Habropoda pallida (white-faced bee);
Diadasia rinconis (cactus bee);
Emphoropsis pallida;
Lasioglossum spp. (sweat bee);
Ericrocis lata (cuckoo bee)
Dieunomia heteropoda (giant sweat bee);
Triepeolus sp.(cuckoo bee)
0.5Least Painful Sting

Bees are not aggressive

If you are concerned about bee stings, please see my tips about preventing stings.

However, most bees are keen to get on with their tasks of feeding and providing for offspring, pollinating crops and flowers along the way.  Even if bees appear to be following you, they may only be investigating.


1. Schmidt JO. Pain and Lethality Induced by Insect Stings: An Exploratory and Correlational Study. Toxins (Basel). 2019;11(7):427. Published 2019 Jul 21.