Do Bumble Bees Sting? Understanding Their Behavior and Safety Measures

Do Bumble Bees Sting? Understanding Their Behavior and Safety Measures

Bumble bees, known for their fuzzy appearance and gentle buzzing, are important pollinators in our ecosystem. However, many people wonder whether these friendly-looking insects can sting and how dangerous they might be. This article delves into whether bumble bees sting, the nature of their stings, and how to stay safe around them.

do bumble bees sting

Can Bumble Bees Sting?

Yes, bumble bees can sting. Unlike honey bees, which can only sting once because they lose their stinger, bumble bees can sting multiple times. This is because bumble bees have smooth stingers that do not get lodged in the skin of their target.

Nature of Bumble Bee Stings

  • Pain Level: A bumble bee sting can be painful but is generally less intense than that of a honey bee or a wasp. The pain usually subsides within a few hours.
  • Multiple Stings: Because bumble bees can sting more than once, a single bee can deliver multiple stings if it feels threatened.
  • Venom: Bumble bee venom contains proteins that affect the skin cells and immune system, causing pain and swelling around the sting area. In most cases, the reaction is mild and includes redness, swelling, and itching.

When Do Bumble Bees Sting?

Bumble bees are generally non-aggressive and will not sting unless they feel provoked or threatened. They are more likely to sting in the following situations:

  • Nest Disturbance: Bumble bees are protective of their nests. If their nest is disturbed or threatened, they may become defensive and sting to protect it.
  • Direct Threat: Bumble bees may sting if they are handled roughly or if a person or animal comes too close to them suddenly.

Safety Around Bumble Bees

To minimize the risk of getting stung by bumble bees, follow these safety tips:

  • Avoid Nest Disturbance: If you find a bumble bee nest, do not disturb it. Bumble bees usually nest in the ground, in old rodent burrows, or in compost heaps. Give the nest a wide berth and avoid loud noises or vibrations near it.
  • Move Slowly: If a bumble bee approaches you, stay calm and move slowly. Do not swat at the bee, as this can provoke it.
  • Wear Light Colors: Bumble bees are less attracted to light-colored clothing. Avoid wearing bright or floral patterns, which can attract them.
  • Scent Management: Bumble bees are attracted to strong scents. Avoid wearing strong perfumes or scented lotions when spending time outdoors.

What to Do If You Get Stung

If you do get stung by a bumble bee, here are some steps to take:

  1. Remove the Stinger: Although bumble bees typically do not leave their stingers behind, check the sting site to ensure no stinger is embedded. If there is, scrape it off with a fingernail or a credit card.
  2. Clean the Area: Wash the sting area with soap and water to prevent infection.
  3. Apply Ice: Use a cold pack or ice wrapped in a cloth to reduce swelling and pain. Apply it for 10-15 minutes at a time.
  4. Use Anti-Itch Cream: Apply an antihistamine cream or lotion to the sting site to alleviate itching and swelling.
  5. Monitor for Allergic Reactions: Watch for signs of an allergic reaction, such as difficulty breathing, swelling of the face or throat, dizziness, or a rapid heartbeat. If these occur, seek medical attention immediately.

Allergic Reactions to Bumble Bee Stings

While most people only experience mild reactions to bumble bee stings, some may have severe allergic reactions, known as anaphylaxis. Symptoms of anaphylaxis include:

  • Difficulty breathing
  • Swelling of the face, lips, or throat
  • Rapid or weak pulse
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Loss of consciousness

If you or someone else exhibits these symptoms after a bee sting, it is crucial to seek emergency medical help immediately.


Bumble bees can sting, and their stings can be painful, but these bees are generally non-aggressive and will only sting when provoked. By understanding their behavior and taking appropriate safety measures, you can coexist peacefully with these important pollinators. Remember, bumble bees play a vital role in pollinating plants, and their presence is beneficial to the environment.

For more detailed information on bumble bee stings and safety, you can refer to resources such as BioBees and Orkin. These sites provide additional insights and safety tips for interacting with bumble bees.