Stinging Insects

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Stinging Insects

Insect stings are uncomfortable and can often be distressing particularly if you get stung several times.

However, you can reduce the risk of being stung by getting rid of a wasp nest in or near your home, with the assistance of a pest control professional, whilst also taking some basic precautions when outdoors.

Information below provides further advice on wasps, hornets and bees and how to treat insect stings.

Insect Stings vs Insect Bites

Insect stings should not be confused with insect bites. 

Stinging insects such as wasps, hornets and bees, will only sting you as an act of defense or when they believe you pose a threat to the colony or nest, and only the females can sting. When a wasp stings she injects venom into or under your skin. This has an immediate effect, causing a sharp, burning sensation, and it is the venom that people are allergic to rather than the stinging insects themselves. It is the same for hornets (actually a type of wasp) and bees.

Biting insects (such as bed bugs), on the other hand, feed on your blood. To give the insect time to feed, insect bites have evolved so that the pain is not as sharp as a sting (although the bite of a horse fly is very painful), leaving the insect unnoticed whilst feeding upon you.

Wasp Stings

Out of all the stinging insects, wasps are the most aggressive. They can sting you with little provocation.

However wasps won’t go out of their way to sting you. They will only sting if you either go too close to their nest, or you agitate them in some way.

Wasp sting treatment

The most common sting suffered from an insect is a wasp sting. These aggressive creatures have stung a fair share of people multiple times. 

Wasp sting symptoms 

  • Swelling to the site of the sting lasting more than 24hrs;
  • sharp burning pain; 
  • itchiness; and 
  • visible welt where stinger punctured skin.

How to treat a wasp sting

  1. Clean the area with soap and water to remove the venom.
  2. Apply an ice pack to the sting to reduce the swelling.
  3. Take an antihistamine.

Allergic reaction to wasp stings 

Severe allergic reactions to wasp stings are referred to as “anaphylaxis”. Anaphylaxis occurs as a response to wasp venom, and happens very quickly. 

Symptoms of an allergic reaction to a wasp sting 

  • Swelling of face, lips or throat;
  • hives or itching areas of the body not affected by sting;
  • wheezing;
  • dizziness;
  • sudden drop in blood pressure;
  • lightheadedness;
  • loss of consciousness;
  • nausea;
  • stomach cramps; and
  • weak or racing pulse.

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Hornet Stings

Compared to wasps, hornets are quite timid, so they will only sting if their nest is threatened. When they do sting, though, it results in a much more painful sting as a hornet's venom is much more powerful than that of a wasp. Hornets, however, are actually a type of wasp, so their control is the same as for wasps.

Hornet Sting Treatment

The most painful stings from a stinging insect come from hornets.

Hornet sting symptoms

  • A sharp, hot immediate pain;
  • a large local reaction — redness to the skin, itchiness;
  • swelling; and
  • burning sensation.

How to treat a hornet sting

  1. Clean the area immediately using warm water and soap. This will help remove any venom left on the affected area.
  2. Apply an ice pack to the area to help reduce the swelling.
  3. Calamine lotion can also be applied to cool the wounded area and help relieve the itch.
  4. If the itching is severe, consult your pharmacist about steroid creams.

Allergic reaction to hornet stings

Hornets produce the most painful insect stings and thus a more severe allergic reaction.

Symptoms of an allergic reaction to a hornet sting

  • Pain;
  • itching;
  • dysperia;
  • coughing;
  • wheezing;
  • dizziness;
  • hypotension (drop in blood pressure);
  • vomiting; and
  • diarrhea.

If you have any of the above symptoms within 30 minutes from a bee, wasp or hornet sting then call an ambulance immediately as you could go into anaphylactic shock.

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Bee Stings

Bees are much less likely to sting you than a wasp. The most common reason for stinging is being sat or stood on. The key sign of a bee sting is a small stinger lodged inside the skin.

Do bees die after they sting?

Yes — a bee’s stinger is barbed, causing it to get stuck in your skin. As the bee tries to fly away it inevitable rips its stinger from its abdomen, this is what causes the bee to die. This leaves the stinger and the venom sack trapped in your skin, the venomous sac will continue to pump venom for more than a minute. Find out about treatment for bee stings below.

Once stung by a bee, the area around the sting will quickly redden and a raised weal (fluid under the skin) will form. The weal will reduce after a few hours, but it may remain itchy for more than a day.

Bee Sting Treatment

Getting stung by a bee can be quite painful, especially if you have a bee sting allergy. Unlike wasps and hornets, bees die after stinging.

Bee sting symptoms

  • Instant, sharp burning pain;
  • red welt around the area;
  • a small, white spot where stinger punctured the skin; and
  • stinger present in affected area.

How to treat a bee sting

  1. Remove stinger promptly using long fingernails or tweezers.
  2. Be careful not to squeeze the sting sac as this will inject more venom into your body.
  3. Wash the infected area with warm water and soap.
  4. Apply ice to the infected area to help reduce swelling.
  5. Take a antihistamine if necessary.

Allergic reaction to bee stings

If you think you could be allergic to bee stings view the following symptoms below.

Symptoms of an allergic reaction to a bee sting

  • Swelling around the throat, mouth or tongue;
  • difficulty breathing;
  • breakout of hives;
  • a weak, rapid pulse;
  • nausea, vomiting or diarrhea;
  • dizziness or fainting; and
  • loss of consciousness.

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Preventing Insect Stings

If you know you are sensitive to bee stings, you should take care to minimise the risk of being stung. There are practical steps that we can all take to avoid stings.

To avoid wasp and bee stings when outdoors you should:

  • avoid wearing bright colors and strong scents such as perfumes and deodorants as these attract insects;
  • wear long sleeves, trousers, footwear or hats to reduce exposed skin;
  • use insect repellent sprays on exposed skin;
  • use insect repelling products or candles;
  • avoid leaving sweet drinks and foods exposed;
  • look out for bees before sitting, lying or resting;
  • avoid areas where wasps cluster such as orchards;
  • wear gloves if picking fallen fruit from the ground;
  • never try to swat wasps or bees. This will increase the likelihood of them stinging you and may excite a swarm; and
  • do not wave your arms and try not to panic as this will also excite the insect. If you enter an area with many stinging insects, walk calmly and slowly away to avoid wasp stings.

Allergic Reaction to Stings

Some people are much more sensitive to hornet and wasp stings than others, although young children tend to be particularly sensitive.

However, the key group at risk are the three percent of the population who suffer from an allergic reaction to bee stings.

An allergic reaction to wasp stings can develop at any time, even if they have not reacted to a previous sting.

For those who suffer from a more moderate allergic reaction to bee stings, there may be more general swelling around the wound. Consult your doctor if the swelling is severe or persistent.

Those stung by a wasp or bee on two or more occasions in previous years are at higher risk of developing an allergy. Generally those who suffer large local reaction to insect stings continue to have similar reactions to subsequent stings.


Anaphylaxis is a serious, potentially life-threatening allergic response to a hornet, wasp or bee sting. Signs pointing towards bee sting anaphylaxis include swelling, hives and lowered blood pressure. In severe cases, a person will go into shock.

Anaphylaxis can cause some people to go into anaphylactic shock. Its the anaphylactic shock caused by a wasp, hornet, or bee sting that can be very fatal, sometimes causing death. If you think you are, or know someone who is, going into anaphylactic shock seek emergency medical attention immediately.

Stinging Insects in Home or Garden

If there are high numbers of wasps or bees in your home, it is likely there is a nest nearby. 

It is important to deal with wasps nests as early as possible — wasps become more aggressive in late summer and it is much safer to deal with them earlier in the year. A wasp trapped indoors can be dealt with using a wasp & fly killer spray.

Bees, however, are beneficial to the environment and are protected so should not be killed. Therefore if you have bees, please contact a local bee keeper or bee keepers association to re-locate the nest for you and to avoid harming the bees.

Find out more information in our wasp and bee sections or call us for more advice on 1-800-837-5520.

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