Uncovering the Truth: Bumblebee Stings and Their Effects

common carder bumblebee

Bumblebees can sting, but they are not generally aggressive and will only do so if they feel threatened or their nest is disturbed. The sting of a bumblebee is typically less painful and less venomous than that of a honeybee, but it can still cause discomfort and an allergic reaction in some people.

Despite being generally harmless, bumblebees often trigger fear in humans. However, contrary to popular belief bumblebees are not aggressive creatures and they will only sting if they feel threatened or if their colony is under attack. It’s worth noting that only female bumblebees are equipped with stingers, whereas male bumblebees, also known as drones, lack this defense mechanism.

Do Bumblebees Die After They Sting?

Unlike honeybees, bumblebees do not have barbed stingers. This means bumblebees are capable of stinging multiple times without the risk of dying.

To understand why honeybees die after stinging, it’s important to know that their stingers are barbed. So while they can inject venom into their target, because of the barb the stinger to become lodged in the victim’s skin. When the bee pulls away, its stinger and part of its abdomen and digestive tract are left behind, causing the bee to die shortly after.

In contrast, bumblebees have smooth stingers. This actually means that they can sting repeatedly without suffering the same fate as honeybees. Nevertheless, bumblebees are generally not as aggressive as honeybees and so will only sting when they feel threatened or provoked.

It’s worth noting that while bumblebees are not likely to die from stinging, they are still capable of delivering a painful sting that can cause swelling, redness, and discomfort. Therefore, it’s best to avoid disturbing or harassing bumblebees whenever possible.

Do Bumblebee Stings Hurt?

When under threat, a bumblebee may sting to protect itself. It does this by injecting its stinger into its victim and releasing a venom. This venomOpens in a new tab. affects blood vessels and results in pain and swelling. Most people have a mild reaction to a bumblebee sting, with redness of the skin, itching, and some mild pain. Swelling can occur and can be more prominent on areas of the body with looser skin. Moreover, because of the swelling effect, there is a danger of suffocation if a bumblebee manages to sting a person’s throat or tongue.

Some people can experience an allergic reaction to a bumblebee stingOpens in a new tab. and consequently suffer anaphylaxis. If this occurs, symptoms can occur in parts of the body away from the site of the sting. An allergic reaction to a bumblebee sting is extremely dangerous and can cause swelling of the throat, face, and neck. Some people will experience shortness of breath, chest pains, and dizziness. It is essential that emergency treatment is sought immediately if you or someone else develops such symptoms after a bumblebee sting.

Buff-tailed bumblebee on red flower
Common carder bumblebee

Do Bumblebees Sting Dogs?

As mentioned above, while bumblebees are generally not aggressive, they can sting if they feel threatened or if their nest is disturbed. This may happen if a curious dog decides to investigate a bumblebee, either by sniffing or chasing it.

While dogs are unlikely to suffer any serious harm from a bumblebee sting, it can be painful and may cause some swelling and irritation. In some cases dogs may have an allergic reaction to the sting, which can lead to more severe symptoms such as difficulty breathing or a swollen throat. This is rare, however, and most dogs will recover quickly with no long-term effects.

To prevent your dog from getting stung by bumblebees, it’s best to keep it away from areas where the insects are likely to be found, such as gardens or fields of flowers. You can also keep your dog on a leash when out for a walk to help prevent it from getting too close to any bees it may encounter.

What to Do If Your Dog is Stung

If your dog is stung by a bee, it may yelp and try to bite at the area or use its paws to relieve the pain. If it was a bumblebee that stung your pet, it is unlikely that there will be a stinger left behind. You may see redness and swelling though, particularly if the dog was stung on the head, nose, or mouth. You can apply a paste made of water and baking sodaOpens in a new tab. to the area to help alleviate the pain/swelling as well as using an ice pack.

It is important to keep a careful eye on your dog after a bee sting to ensure that any swelling does not affect its ability to breath or swallow. If you notice substantial swelling around the affected area, contact a vet as soon as possible as your dog may need an antihistamine.

Dogs, like humans, can suffer allergic reactions to bee stings, so it is vital that you observe your dog closely for a few hours after the incident. It is rare, but a dog may go into shock after being stung. It is important therefore to contact a vet as soon as possible if you notice any worrying symptoms.

Red-tailed bumblebee
Red-tailed bumblebee

Will Bumblebees Chase You?

Bumblebees are generally known to be peaceful insects that go about their business of collecting nectar and pollinating flowers without much fuss. Unlike some other bees and wasps, such as honeybees or yellow jackets, bumblebees do not usually become aggressive or defensive when humans are in their vicinity. Nonetheless, there are certain situations where a bumblebee may feel threatened and act accordingly.

Bumblebee Behavior

Bumblebees are social insects that live in colonies of up to a few hundred individuals. They are known for their distinctive buzzing sound and their fuzzy appearance, which makes them easily recognizable. Bumblebees are important pollinatorsOpens in a new tab. of many flowering plants and crops, and they play a vital role in maintaining the health of ecosystems around the world.

I have mentioned that Bumblebees are generally docile and not likely to sting humans except when provoked or threatened. Unlike some other bees, they are not aggressive in nature and will not chase after people for no reason. However, if a bumblebee feels threatened, it may become defensive and sting to protect itself or its colony.

When Bumblebees May Chase You

While it is unlikely that a bumblebee will chase you for an extended period of time, there are some situations where they may become more aggressive. For example, if a bumblebee feels that its nest or colony is under threat, it may become defensive and try to chase away any perceived danger. This could include humans who are getting too close to the nest or are otherwise disturbing the colony in some way.

Bumblebees are also more likely to become agitated and defensive when they are disturbed while feeding on flowers. If you accidentally disturb a bumblebee while it is collecting nectar, it may buzz around you for a few moments before flying away. This is not an aggressive behavior but rather a natural response to being startled or disturbed.

What to Do if a Bumblebee Approaches You

If you encounter a bumblebee while outside, there are a few things you can do to avoid getting stung. First and foremost, try to remain calm and avoid making sudden movements or loud noises. If a bumblebee approaches you, it is best to simply stand still and let it fly away on its own.

If you need to move away from the area where the bumblebee is located, do so slowly and deliberately, without swatting at the bee or running away. Remember that bumblebees are generally not aggressive and are only likely to sting if they feel threatened or provoked. By remaining calm and giving the bumblebee plenty of space, you can avoid getting stung and allow the bee to go about its business in peace.

Do Bumblebees Sting – Summary

In conclusion, while only female bumblebees possess a stinger, they tend to use it sparingly and only when provoked. Despite the fact that most individuals will only experience mild symptoms after being stung, there is still a small risk of a severe allergic reaction. Therefore, it’s essential to take swift action and seek emergency medical attention if you encounter any serious symptoms following a sting from a bumblebee. Understanding the nature of these insects and their stinging behavior can help us coexist safely with them while enjoying the many benefits they bring to our ecosystems.

FAQs for Bumblebee Stings

Q: Do bumblebees sting? A: Yes, bumblebees can sting. However, they are generally not aggressive and will only sting if they feel threatened or provoked.

Q: Are bumblebee stings dangerous? A: Bumblebee stings are usually not dangerous for humans. However, individuals who are allergic to bee stings may experience a severe allergic reaction called anaphylaxis, which requires immediate medical attention.

Q: How can I avoid getting stung by a bumblebee? A: To avoid getting stung by a bumblebee, it is best to give them space and avoid disturbing their nests or foraging areas. Wear light-colored clothing and avoid wearing perfume or scented products, as these can attract bees. If you encounter a bumblebee, move away slowly and calmly.

Q: What should I do if I get stung by a bumblebee? A: If you get stung by a bumblebee, remove the stinger by gently scraping it with a credit card or fingernail. Wash the area with soap and water and apply a cold compress to reduce swelling. Over-the-counter pain relievers can help alleviate pain. If you experience symptoms of an allergic reaction, seek medical attention immediately.

Q: Can bumblebees be beneficial to the environment? A: Yes, bumblebees play an important role in pollinating plants and crops, which helps to maintain a healthy ecosystem and food supply.

Q: How can I attract bumblebees to my garden? A: To attract bumblebees to your garden, plant a variety of native flowers that bloom throughout the season. Avoid using pesticides, as these can harm bees and other pollinators. Provide nesting sites by leaving areas of undisturbed soil or installing a bumblebee house.

Disclaimer: Beekeeping, like any agricultural activity, involves inherent risks. It is important to understand these risks and take appropriate measures to mitigate them.

Potential risks associated with beekeeping include:

  1. Bee stings: Honeybees are generally not aggressive but can become defensive if they feel threatened or their hive is disturbed. Bee stings can cause allergic reactions or even anaphylaxis in some individuals, which can be life-threatening. It is important to wear protective clothing and follow best practices when handling bees to minimize the risk of stings.
  2. Diseases and pests: Bees can be vulnerable to various diseases and pests, including mites, viruses, and bacterial infections. These can have significant impacts on bee colonies, leading to reduced honey production or even colony collapse. It is important to monitor hives regularly and take appropriate measures to prevent and treat diseases and pests.
  3. Weather conditions: Extreme weather conditions, such as drought or cold temperatures, can affect the health and productivity of bee colonies. It is important to ensure that hives are appropriately sheltered and provided with adequate food and water.
  4. Environmental hazards: Bees can be affected by environmental hazards such as pesticide exposure, pollution, and habitat loss. It is important to be aware of these hazards and take appropriate measures to protect bee colonies and promote healthy environments for bees.
  5. Legal requirements: Beekeeping may be subject to local, state, or national regulations, such as registration or inspection requirements. It is important to be aware of these requirements and comply with them.

While beekeeping can be a rewarding and enjoyable activity, it is important to be aware of the potential risks and take appropriate measures to mitigate them. By following best practices and staying informed about the latest developments in beekeeping, beekeepers can help ensure the health and productivity of their hives and contribute to the well-being of bee populations worldwide.

MEDICAL DISCLAIMER: The information provided on this page is for informational purposes only and is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified healthcare provider with any questions you may have regarding any type of medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this page (or elsewhere on this site). If you think you may have a medical emergency, call your doctor or emergency services immediately. Reliance on any information provided by this website is solely at your own risk.

Photo Credits:

  • Featured Image (Cuckoo bumblebee): James K. LindseyOpens in a new tab. – CC BY-SA 2.5
  • Common carder bumblebee: SffubsOpens in a new tab. – CC BY-SA 3.0


Anthony is a content creator by profession but beekeeping is one of his great passions. Read about him by clicking here.

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