Free Shipping on Orders of $25 or More! (Shipping Only Available to the Continental U.S.)

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 can have a severe allergic reaction to insect stings. If they are having difficulty breathing or swelling on the lips, eyelids, or throat, seek immediate medical help.                                           


Bee on flower

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

While bees can be beneficial to our environment, their stings are still a painful problem. Bees aren’t considered aggressive insects. However, if they feel threatened, they will defend themselves.

Though honeybees can only sting one time, bumblebees can produce multiple stings because their stingers aren’t barbed. Bee stings will cause an instant, sharp pain. Though it will be 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 appear to be made of a paper-like material. Though paper wasps are mostly brown, they do have some yellow on their body. However, some paper wasps can have an appearance similar to yellow jackets with a yellow and black body.

Like bees, paper wasps aren’t typically aggressive, but 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 and 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 much less hair. They are smaller than paper wasps when it comes to length. However, yellow jackets are wider than paper wasps.

While paper wasps, bees, and hornets construct nests above ground, the yellow jacket builds its nest below ground.

Yellow jackets are more aggressive than other stinging insects, but typically only attack if threatened. They will sting more than once, and their stings are painful. Swelling, redness, and itchiness are common in 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 be over 1 inch in size. It has a brown body with yellow stripes and a pale face. These hornets are known to build nests from paper-like material. Their nests are often found in hollow trees.

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


Washing sting area

If you are stung by one of these insects, there are a few things you should do.

The first step is to remove a stinger if one is present. Most stinging insects won’t leave behind a stinger, but honeybee stingers are likely to be left. Remove it as quickly as possible because the pain level will remain the same until removed.

The stinger will look like a black dot. To remove it, scrape it off the skin with either your fingernail or something flat like a credit card. Using tweezers 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 itchiness 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 is stung and has trouble breathing, swelling on lips, eyelids or throat, 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 these bugs 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 Maggie’s Farm Simply Effective Wasp & Hornet Killer.

Leave a comment

Please note, comments must be approved before they are published