How Not to Get Stung By Bees

It is no secret that the author of this article is a big fan of honeybees and bumblebees, and an unabashed promoter of bee-friendly landscaping. Honeybees and bumblebees are totally different from wasps, yellow jackets, and hornets. While honeybees and bumblebees (with the exception of the Africanized Honeybee) are not usually aggressive, wasps, yellow jackets, and hornets are. Wasps, yellow jackets, and hornets do play an important role in the ecosystem, by eating other insect pests. However, they're aggressive enough that most university extension services recommend having their nests removed by a qualified pest control expert.

A honeybee collects nectar from a flower. (njmcc/

Honeybees and bumblebees, on the other hand, are extremely valuable as pollinators, and should not be killed. If you notice swarms of honeybees on your property, call a local beekeeper to remove the bees to his hives. Because honeybee populations are dwindling, it is absolutely preferable not to kill them.

Avoid stings from honeybees and bumblebees

Although honeybees and bumblebees are animals that you actually want in your garden, they do sting if provoked. Avoid being stung by taking a few simple actions, as recommended by the University of Maine Cooperative Extension:

  • Cover as much of your body as you can with light-colored, smooth-finished clothing (this also prevents sunburn when working in the garden).

  • Keep your yard free of sugary garbage, such as remnants of soda from a barbecue.

  • If you see a bee, don't swat at it. Remain still, and the honeybee or bumblebee will probably fly away. Swatting at the bee will increase the likelihood of it stinging you.

  • Wear shoes or sandals while playing or working outside. Every bee sting I have received happened because I stepped on a bee while walking barefoot in the grass, so wearing footwear outdoors is a very simple way to avoid a painful bee sting on the bottom of the foot.

  • Should you get swarmed by bees, don't run, as running will attract more. Instead, seek shelter indoors. If you are outside, move to a shaded area to get away from the bees.

Needless to say, if you are allergic to bees, always carry an allergy kit with you, and know how to use it.

Treat a bee sting

  • If you do get stung by a honeybee, you'll need to remove the stinger. The Indianapolis-area pest control experts at Purdue University recommend that you scrape the stinger off with a fingernail or other straight edge. Do not remove a honeybee stinger with tweezers or by squeezing it between two fingers, as it will squeeze the venom into the muscle.

  • Wash the affected area with soap and water.

  • Ice can reduce the swelling of a bee sting.

  • Resist the urge to scratch the bee sting, as it will irritate the skin and prolong your discomfort.

With the foregoing advice, you should be able to garden alongside honeybees and bumblebees without incident. Contact your local beekeeper or apiculture expert if you are experiencing an unpleasant or disruptive number of honeybees or bumblebee in your yard.

Chaya Kurtz writes for

Updated April 4, 2018.

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