Do Bumblebees Sting and If So, What Are the Effects?


Cuckoo bumblebee

When bumblebees approach humans, many will flap their arms and run away for fear of being stung. But do bumblebees sting? And if so, why?

Bumblebees are actually docile and peaceful and will only resort to stinging if they feel threatened or if they are trying to protect their home. What most people do not know is that it is only female bumblebees that sting. The male bumblebee, or drone as it is called, does not have a stinger.

Do Bumblebees Die After They Sting?

Another interesting fact about the bumblebee is that it does not have a barbed stinger like the honeybee does. This means that its stinger will not detach from its abdomen after it injects it into something or someone (detached stingers in honeybees causes them to die). Unlike honeybees then, bumblebees can sting a number of times.

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 venom 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. And 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 sting 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.

common carder bumblebee
Common carder bumblebee

Do Bumblebees Sting Dogs?

Dogs are very curious creatures and when they spot bumblebees hovering about will naturally move in for a closer look. Some will run about after the bees as the insects try to fly away. If the bumblebee feels threatened by the dog, it may sting it to ward it off.

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, however, see redness and swelling, particularly if your dog was stung on the head, nose, or mouth. You can apply a paste made of water and baking soda 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 your vet as soon as possible if you notice any worrying symptoms.

Will Bumblebees Chase You?

There are some bees that will aggressively try to protect their homes and will chase would-be predators for up to a quarter of a mile. But will bumblebees chase you?

It is unlikely that a bumblebee would chase you for any length of time. These peaceful insects typically only attack when under threat. They are not aggressive or defensive and will only sting you if they are provoked of feel threatened in some way.

Summary

Only female bumblebees can sting as male bumblebees do not have a stinger. Although they can sting multiple times, bumblebees only do so when threatened.

A sting from a bumblebee usually invokes a mild reaction, causing mild pain, itching, and swelling in both humans and animals. Nevertheless, there is the risk of an allergic reaction which can end up being fatal on rare occasions. It is important to seek emergency medical treatment if you experience shortness of breath, chest pain, or swelling of the face, neck, and mouth after a sting from a bumblebee.


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Photo Credits:

  • Featured Image (Cuckoo bumblebee): James K. Lindsey – CC BY-SA 2.5
  • Common carder bumblebee: Sffubs – CC BY-SA 3.0

Anthony

Anthony is a content creator by profession but beekeeping is one of his great passions.

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