Do Bumblebees Sting? Understanding Bumble Bee Behavior and Avoiding Stings


Bumblebees, unlike some other bee species, don’t bite. Instead, they rely on a stinger for defense. Generally peaceful creatures, they only sting when they feel threatened or their nest is in danger. This stinger, a modified egg-laying organ, has barbs that become lodged in the skin during a sting. Unfortunately, unlike honeybees, bumblebees can’t retract their barbed stingers, and this often leads to the bee’s death.

It’s important to note that bumblebees are beneficial insects. They help pollinate a variety of plants, and they are generally less aggressive than other stinging insects. If you come across a bumblebee, it’s best to stay calm and avoid sudden movements. If you need to interact with them, do so gently and carefully to minimize the risk of being stung. Since bumblebees are our focus today, let’s jump right in and explore their fascinating behavior!

Types of Bees

Bumblebees are among the various types of bees known as pollinators. They are typically larger and fuzzier than honey bees and consist of three main types within a colony:

  • Queens: These female bees are in charge of reproducing and starting new colonies.
  • Workers: Also female, workers gather nectar and pollen and protect the colony.
  • Males: Male bees primarily mate with queens and have no other duties within the colony.

Do Bumblebees Sting?

Bumblebees are important pollinators, but it’s natural to wonder if they sting. The answer is yes, bumblebees can sting, but they’re generally less aggressive than some other stinging insects. Like honeybees and wasps, bumblebees use their stingers for defense.

Only female bumblebees, the worker bees and the queen, have stingers. These stingers are actually modified parts used for laying eggs. If a bumblebee feels her nest or herself is in danger, she might use her stinger to deliver a sting, which can be quite painful.

One interesting difference between bumblebees and honeybees is their stinger itself. Honeybee stingers have barbs, which means they get stuck in the skin after a sting. This barbs detaches from the bee’s body along with a venom sac, causing injury to the bee and ensuring a single sting. Bumblebees, on the other hand, have smooth stingers. This allows them to withdraw their stinger without getting hurt and sting multiple times if they feel they need to protect themselves.

Bumblebee Sting Symptoms

  1. Local Reactions – Common

    When stung by a bumblebee, most people experience a local reaction, usually resulting in redness and itching around the sting area. Areas with looser skin, like eyelids, might swell more.

    Local reactions typically go away quickly, but sometimes they can last a couple of days. However, if stung in sensitive areas like the mouth or throat, it can be dangerous and require a trip to the hospital for emergency treatment.

  2. Allergic Reactions: Rare But Important

    Allergic reactions to bumblebee stings don’t happen often, but they need quick attention because they can be serious.

    Allergic reactions usually mean bigger local reactions, maybe even affecting a whole limb, and they could lead to a more serious allergic reaction called anaphylaxis.

    Although they’re rare, allergic reactions usually happen within 30 minutes of the sting and show up away from where the sting happened.

Signs to Watch For

  • Rash with itching, swelling of the face/neck
  • Unexpected stomach issues (like vomiting and diarrhea), along with dizziness, sweating, and shivering
  • Respiratory symptoms such as a cough, chest tightness, or trouble breathing
  • In severe cases, cardiovascular reactions like a drop in blood pressure, passing out, or anaphylactic shock.

What to Do If Stung by a Bumblebee

If you happen to get stung by a bumblebee, here’s what you can do to manage it and feel better:

  1. Stay Calm:

    Even though it might hurt, try to stay relaxed. Getting worked up can make it feel worse.

  2. Remove the Stinger:

    Bumblebees usually don’t leave their stingers behind, but it’s a good idea to check and gently scrape away any leftover bits with your fingernail or a card. Don’t use tweezers, though – they might make things worse.

  3. Clean the Area:

    Wash the sting spot with soap and water to keep it clean and lower the chance of infection.

  4. Put Something Cold on It:

    Using an ice pack or a cloth dipped in cold water can help with swelling and pain. Just remember to wrap the ice in a cloth so you don’t get frostbite.

  5. Take Pain Meds:

    Over-the-counter pain relievers like ibuprofen or acetaminophen can help with the pain. Just follow the instructions on the bottle.

  6. Consider Antihistamines:

    If the area starts to itch or swell, antihistamines can help calm things down.

  7. Try Some Cream:

    Putting on calamine lotion or hydrocortisone cream can also help with the itching and swelling.

  8. Elevate the Spot:

    If you got stung on a limb, try raising it up – it might help with the swelling.

  9. Drink Up Some Water:

    Keep hydrated by drinking plenty of water. It can help flush out any toxins.

  10. Protect Yourself from Allergic Reactions:

    Even though bumblebee stings are usually not a big deal, some people can have serious allergic reactions. If you start having trouble breathing, get hives, or swell up a lot, get help right away. And if you know you’re allergic to bee stings, it’s smart to carry an epinephrine auto-injector.

  11. Don’t Scratch:

    Even though it might itch, try not to scratch the sting area. Scratching can make it worse and might cause an infection.

    Most people feel better within a day or so after a bumblebee sting. But if you’re worried or things seem to be getting worse, it’s a good idea to talk to a doctor.


A reliable way to steer clear of bumblebee stings is to avoid their nests or the flowers and plants they frequent. Sometimes, you might stumble upon a bumblebee nest unknowingly, so it’s best to avoid actions that could provoke them. Here are some simple tips to keep in mind:

  • Stay calm, as bumblebees are usually not aggressive.
  • Avoid waving your arms, swatting at the bees, or accidentally disturbing their nest. Instead, move slowly and carefully away from the area where you see the bees.
  • If you do get stung, gently brush the bees off your body without hurting them, and quickly move away. If possible, protect your head.
  • Consider reaching out to us at Take Care Termite and Pest Control for help dealing with bumblebees and other stinging insects around your property.

Closing Thoughts

Bumblebees are helpful insects that help plants grow, but they can sting if they feel scared. Their stings usually aren’t as bad as bee stings, but it’s still best to leave them alone. By learning a little about bumblebees and how they behave, we can share our gardens with them safely. If you’re worried about bumblebees around your house or someone nearby is allergic to stings, you can call a professional like Take Care Termite and Pest Control to safely take care of them.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

  1. Do all bees sting?

    No, not all bees sting. There are some stingless bee species.

  2. How long does a bee live?

    Bee lifespans vary depending on species but typically range from weeks to months for workers and a few years for queens.

  3. Do bumble bees die when they sting?

    No, bumble bees (and most bees) don’t die after stinging.

  4. What bees don’t sting?

    Stingless bees, as the name suggests, don’t sting. They are found in Central and South America.

  5. How many different types of bumble bees are there and which one sting?

    There are around 250 bumble bee species, and they all can sting if they feel threatened except for Stingless bees.

  6. Do bumble bees have hives?

    Yes, bumble bees live in colonies with hives, but unlike honey bees, their hives are much smaller and temporary.

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