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Things That Sting

Written by contributor NJ Renie.

We love summer. We love being outdoors, flowers, barbeques, long sunny days, and fresh fruit. But we are not the only ones out there that love those things; insects do too and occasionally our paths will cross. Once in a while our tiny, frustrated neighbors will turn to violence and when that happens, it usually involves a thing that stings. Let’s take a look at a few of the common ones.

Hornets

Photo by Penny Bubar

  • Hornets live in a large paper nests in tree branches or bushes.
  • Each hornet has a very painful sting and will sting multiple times.
  • Each nest begins with a single queen hornet in the spring and their numbers increase gradually until late summer or early fall.

Fire Ants

  • Fire ants will nest in protected areas (in logs, under rocks and bushes) as well as making large mound-shaped nests in the open ground.
  • They eat seeds, flowers, fruits, vegetables, insects and small animals.
  • Fire ants live in the southern US and other warm places.
  • Very aggressive, fire ants attack in very large groups and will bite and sting.

Paper Wasps

Photo by Alex Drahon

  • Paper wasps live in small nests of a few to a few dozen individuals. These nests attached to the underside eaves, rocks, and other protected areas.
  • Some species are very aggressive, particularly when defending the nest.
  • Adult paper wasps will feed on dropped fruit and nectar; paper wasps feed insects to their young.

Mud Wasps

  • Make small tubular nests under the eaves of homes.
  • Mud wasps are usually very docile will sting only when bothered.
  • They feed on nectar and feed their young other insects and spiders.

Honeybees

Photo by KD Kelly

  • In nature honeybees nest in hollow trees.
  • Honeybees will occasionally nest in the walls of homes
  • Honeybees live in very large nests of ~70,000 individuals.
  • Unlike everything else on this list, each honey bee can only sting once.

Bumble bees

  • Bumble bees live in small colonies of less than one hundred.
  • They collect pollen and produce honey, just like honeybees.
  • Small nests can be found in the ground, often under structures or logs.
  • Bumble bee nests are a favorite food of mice and abandoned mouse nests are a favorite nesting place of bumble bees!

Yellow Jackets

Photo by Gary Scott

  • Yellow jackets live in paper nests usually located at ground level.
  • A colony of Yellow Jackets will usually number into the couple of thousands. In areas without a harsh winter, such as the American Southwest or Hawaii, yellow jacket colonies can reach sizes of 100,000 or more!
  • Occasionally Yellow Jacket nests will be found in places like the walls of home, under a beehive, or in an old boot.
  • Like hornets, their numbers will steadily increase into the early fall. And the adults eat nectar while the larvae are fed other insects.
  • Yellow Jackets are notorious for invading picnics during the late summer and early fall. Remember, your open soda can looks like a 12 oz. flower filled with nectar to them!

Sting First Aid

First off, get the heck out of there!!!

When stung by a honey bee be sure to remove the stinger ASAP. A bee leaves its stinger in you when it stings. The stinger apparatus has an attached venom sack which will continue pumping venom into the sting site until the sack is empty.

Allergic reaction to honey bees is by far the most common, but whenever you are stung by anything anaphylaxis is a real possibility. Immediately report your sting to someone else so that they can keep an eye on your condition.

In the event of abnormal swelling, wheezing, or dizziness treat the sting as a life-threatening situation. Call 911 and if you do not have access to epinephrine, oral anti-histamines can slow an anaphylactic reaction enough to buy the paramedics some time.

Sting relief

Anti-histamines will slow your body’s inflammatory response, reduce the swelling and give the venom time to dissipate.

Ice is probably the best thing after a sting. The low temperature will numb the discomfort and control the swelling.

As far as pastes and folk cures go… I know you have ’em, so let’s hear ’em!

Who has been stinging in your yard this summer? What’s your bee sting treatment?

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27 Comments

  1. Ben

    My aunt just got stung twice this morning! We have a wasp hole in the ground right next to where she has her blueberry plants. We’re wanting to get rid of them but not use a spray because she doesn’t want to hurt the plants of the fruit. Any suggestions?

    • NJ Renie

      The first thing is to figure out exactly what you’re dealing with. Watch the hole and see how often and what is coming in/out of there. If it is (what I suspect) a Yellowjacket nest you might be able to find someone to vacuum them right out of there for you. If it is just one wasp you could probably just cover the hole with a net/jar/etc. when it’s in there and catch it.

      • Ben

        Hey that’s a really good idea. I didn’t think of using a vacuum. We know exactly where the hole is and have a pretty powerful shop vac in the garage. I think there are about 20 yellow jackets. We can see the hole from the kitchen window, and they were swarming this morning, so we tried counting.

        • NJ Renie

          DON’T USE THE VACUUM! Find an exterminator that uses a vacuum. There could be quite a few yellow jackets underground at this point in the year.

  2. wordplayhouse™

    You have great information about stinging insects here. We raised bees, so I also want to remind everyone how wonderful stinging insects are too. They make us delicious honey. So, remember to leave them be to do the job bees do, and they’ll be busy as bees and leave you alone. We need stinging insects to pollinate flowers and fruit trees. They have great benefits to us as well.

    Great post.

  3. Tee

    Just wrote about this very thing this morning…. After getting stung!
    And don’t forget wheel bugs… They sting worse then hornets but they are a beneficial.. So better to just respect the bug.
    I have the poultice recipe on my site.
    T

  4. Kara

    We have either mud wasps or paper wasps making a nest in the eve above the front door. My sting remedy is…don’t let it happen. I watch where I’m walking, etc. more closely during the summer to avoid the stingers. Oh…another thing that hurts in our yard is horseflies (I know they bite, not sting), but they sure are a bother!

    • NJ Renie

      I helps to keep a wide berth, no doubt about it.

      Horse flies and wheel bugs–it looks like I have my next column idea, as soon as I figure out something that rhymes with “bite.”

      • Jessica B

        Things that rhyme with bite:
        Contrite
        Fight
        Light or Lite
        Height
        Kite
        Might
        Night
        Right, Write or Rite
        Sight or Site
        Tight

  5. Sandra

    Baking Soda mixed with a bit of water is an excellent soothing paste that will dry up over your bee sting.

    • Mandi @ Life...Your Way

      Yep, this is our go-to remedy as well. It’s been a few years since any of us have been stung, but my husband got stunk under his eye while riding his bike and then my 5yo got stung on her lip, and we used baking soda in both cases because it is so soothing!

  6. Vanessa@Vitamins City

    This is absolutely a great post. We have many bees in our backyard garden because we grow a lot of flowers and fruit tree. However, no one experience yet a bee’s sting in our family. Nevertheless, it is really better if we are prepared when it happen, so we always keep an antihistamine in our medicines cabinet for first aid treatment, and of course we don’t want to self medicate so call 911 or bring the person in the nearest hospital.

  7. Rebecca

    I remember when I was little my mom always put mud over a bee sting and let it dry. It took away the swelling and the pain. I am not sure if it worked becuase I was small and expected it to, or if it really helps, but it has always worked for me!

  8. Alicia

    I also agree with the commenter about how beneficial bees are. Not only do they make honey for us, but they are excellent garden pollinators. Our yard has all sorts of stinging creatures and the kids have learned to watch where they step and how they act, and we have all avoided stings for about 10 years now.

    My daughter used to have an uncanny knack for stepping on docile or dying bees (the stinger will still do its job!) and we learned that the baking soda and water paste really is a fantastic remedy.

  9. Kathryn

    A baking-soda-and-water paste is our go-to remedy as well. When baking soda has not been handy, we’ve also had success with Epsom salts dissolved in water and with white vinegar. With either liquid, you can apply it directly to the sting with a cotton swab or put it on a cloth and use as a poultice.

  10. Molly

    I am a honey bee keeper and honey bees wont sting unless provoked, like if you are trying to take their honey;) Unlike wasps and hornets that will attack.
    My go to remedy for a sting is baking soda mixed with french green clay and peppermint oil. The baking soda neutralizes the venom while the green clay works wonders to suck/absorb it, the peppermint oil soothes and reduces swelling. Having “Rescue Remedy” on hand is great too as the nerves are in full “fight” mode.

    But please don’t hurt the honey bees, they are vital to our food supply:)!!

  11. Betsy

    I haven’t had to treat a sting in our family for several years (knock on wood), but I remember older relatives tearing open a cigarette, wetting the tobacco and making a poultice for stings. I dont know how it works, but it works well!

    • Jessica B

      My dad used to do this same treatment on me when I was little!!!

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  13. Larissa

    I was stung once by a honey bee, it was sooooo painful. I’m not getting close to these creatures ever since!

  14. Kathy S, LPN

    My sting remedies are as follows: For immediate relief, mud works wonders. Equally good is a paste made with baking soda and water. (Of course, if you have an allergic reaction, these will not help that. See the advice above.) I’ve also heard that you can apply a paste of meat tenderizer and water, but I have never tried that.
    As mentioned above, it’s best not to disturb the bees if you can help it. And if one should land on you, try holding perfectly still and don’t panic. (I have had success doing this.) Usually they will just fly away. Stinging is a defense mechanism, so if you don’t frighten or threaten them, you will be more likely to avoid getting stung. (I have had success doing this.)

    • Vanessa@Vitamins City

      Hi Kathy, good point here: “Stinging is a defense mechanism, so if you don’t frighten or threaten them, you will be more likely to avoid getting stung. ” I totally agree with you. I love the holding still method. I hope I can make it without panicking. And also thanks for the homemade sting remedies.

  15. Heather :) :) :)

    Thanks for the good post here. My father and I might be moving out to the country soon…maybe within the next month. I took some photos of the place and noticed lots of bees and wasps..Thanks for the information. Greetiongs from Oregon, Heather 🙂

  16. Amy Keffer

    Here’s what likely is a silly question, but do bumblebees sting as well? I’ve had trouble finding a definitive answer to this, and since I’m taking up gardening BUT have severe anaphylactic reactions to bee stings, I need to know if there’s any type of bee that doesn’t pose a death threat to me. 😉

    • NJ Renie

      Bumble bees can sting multiple times, but rarely do and only the females sting at that, so your odds are 50/50 if you step on/grab one accidentally.

      As far as having a reaction, I would recommend that you assume a serious reaction to any type of sting. Get an Epipen (your insurance should cover it) and go ahead and garden.

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