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How to Treat Insect Stings

Sometimes summer fun gets cut short by bugs. Stinging insects, like wasps and bees, can leave you with a painful reminder of your time with them. If they sting you, it’s important to know how to properly care for the wound. We’ve compiled a list of common stinging insects and how to best treat a sting. It’s important to note that some people experience severe allergic reactions. Seek immediate medical help if they have trouble breathing or swelling on the lips, eyelids, or throat.


Bee on flower

Bumblebees and honeybees are the most common types of bees you’ll see near your home. They’re both black and yellow, but bumblebees have more hair on their body. Honeybees are also thinner than bumblebees.

Bee Stings

While bees are beneficial to the environment, their stings are still a painful problem. Bees aren’t considered aggressive insects, but if they feel threatened, they will defend themselves. Honeybees can sting once, but bumblebees can sting multiple times because their stingers aren’t barbed. Bee stings cause an instant, sharp pain. Though it’s painful, compared to other stings, it will be milder. Bee stings often result in a red welt with slight swelling.

Paper Wasps

Paper Wasp

Paper wasps are known for their umbrella-shaped nests that have a paper-like appearance. Though paper wasps are mostly brown, they do have some yellow on their body. Some paper wasps can appear similar to yellow jackets with a yellow and black body.

Paper Wasp Stings

Like bees, paper wasps aren’t typically aggressive. However, they won’t hesitate to fight back. They can and will sting multiple times. Paper wasp stings are similar to bee stings, but the pain level can be higher. After the first initial sharp pain, the sting area will likely have a red welt and some swelling. Itchiness and pain can last for several hours or up to a few days depending on the person.

Yellow Jackets

Yellow Jacket

Yellow jackets are a type of wasp known for their black and yellow striped body. It isn’t unusual for them to be mistaken for bees despite having less hair. They’re smaller than paper wasps when it comes to length, but paper wasps are wider. Yellow jackets nest below ground.

Yellow Jacket Stings

Yellow jackets are more aggressive than other stinging insects, but they typically only attack if threatened. They will sting more than once, and their stings are painful. Swelling, redness, and itchiness are common near the sting area. These symptoms generally last for several hours.

European Hornets


The European hornet is one of the only true hornets found in the United States. Hornets are very similar to wasps but are generally larger. The European hornet can grow over 1". It has a brown body with yellow stripes and a pale face. These hornets build nests from paper-like material, and the nests are often found in hollow trees.

European Hornet Stings

When threatened, the European hornet will attack and can sting more than once. The pain from a sting is comparable to a wasp sting. The pain is often accompanied with itchiness, swelling, and redness. These symptoms are known to last for about 24 hours.

How to Treat Insect Stings infographic

How to Treat Insect Stings

Washing sting area

If you are stung by one of these insects, there are a few things you’ll want to do.

  • Remove the stinger if one is present by scraping it off the skin with your fingernail or something flat like a credit card. Most stinging insects won’t leave behind a stinger, but honeybee stingers are likely to be left. Remove it as quickly as possible. The pain level will remain the same until removed.
  • Don’t use tweezers to remove a stinger because this can result in more venom being injected.
  • Once it’s removed, clean the area with soap and water.
  • To help with pain and swelling, you can ice the area for 10 minutes and then remove it for 10 minutes before repeating. You can also use a cold compress.
  • If the area can be elevated, then you’ll want to do this.
  • To minimize itching and swelling, you can take an antihistamine.
  • Pain relievers, like acetaminophen and ibuprofen, can be taken to reduce pain.
  • It’s extremely important to remember that stings can result in severe allergic reactions. If someone has trouble breathing, swelling on lips, eyelids, or throat, or experiences dizziness or hives, immediately seek professional medical treatment.
  • If someone is stung who has previously had a severe allergic reaction, don’t hesitate to seek professional help.

Though these insects won’t usually start a fight, there’s still a chance you will accidentally stumble into one. If this happens, it’s important to properly treat the area. If wasps and hornets are hanging out in your yard, it’s a good idea to control the situation before being stung. For an effective and more environmentally and family-friendly solution, check out our Maggie’s Farm Simply Effective™ Wasp & Hornet Killer.

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