Bee Sting Reactions

Bee venom contains at least nine different components that work together to cause bee sting reactions. They can cause local, systemic or toxic reactions.


Can you describe the different kinds of reactions caused by bee stings?

Dr. Greene's Answer

Bee venom contains at least nine different components that work together to cause bee sting reactions in those stung. When a bee injects its venom under the skin, the child may have immediate reactions (those symptoms beginning within 4 hours), delayed reactions (symptoms that don’t appear until more than four hours after the sting), or both. Classifying the reactions is important both for immediate management and for predicting future problems (Allergy Principles and Practice, Mosby 2003).

Local vs Systemic Bee Sting Reactions

Some immediate bee sting reactions are classified as local (a two – or three-inch area of swelling, redness and pain that lasts less than 24 hours). Others qualify as large local reactions (those that are larger — often an entire limb — or that last longer, but all symptoms are adjacent to stings). Systemic reactions are allergic responses distant from the sting and include symptoms such as hives, generalized itching, generalized swelling, low blood pressure, difficulty breathing, or anaphylactic shock — a severe reaction involving most or all of these symptoms.

A sting on the forehead with swelling of the eyelids is a large local reaction, while a sting on the foot with swelling of the eyelids is a systemic reaction. Large local reactions are rarely serious and rarely portend future severe allergies. Systemic allergic reactions, though, are present and future warning signs.

Toxic Bee Sting Reactions

A fourth type of immediate reaction is the toxic reaction, which can follow multiple stings. This is a direct result of bee venom, and not an allergic reaction. Symptoms can include fever, weakness, nausea, vomiting, and pain. Toxic bee sting reactions are rarely serious, but do sometimes sensitize the child and herald future allergic reactions.

Delayed reactions result when the body’s immune system prepares for future stings, but some of the exuberant defense measures inadvertently turn against the body itself. These symptoms begin more than four hours after the initial sting. Delayed reactions include serum sickness (fever, weakness, rash, swelling, and/or intense itching which begin a week after the sting), nephrotic syndrome (inflammation of the kidney), neuritis (inflammation of the nerves), or inflammation of other parts of the body.

For an in-depth look at bee stings, see Treating Bee Stings: A Dive Into Reactions, Treatment & Prevention of Bee Stings.


About the Author
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Dr. Greene is a practicing physician, author, national and international TEDx speaker, and global health advocate. He is a graduate of Princeton University and University of California San Francisco.
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Hiya, I am really glad I have found this info. Nowadays bloggers publish just about gossips and internet and this is actually irritating. A good site with interesting content, this is what I need. Thank you for keeping this web site, I’ll be visiting it. Do you do newsletters? Can not find it.

Thanks so much for your comment. Our goal is to provide information parents can use. It sounds like we’ve succeeded for you.

I’ve added you to our newsletter. Thanks for asking.

Best, @MsGreene
Note: I am the co-founder of, but I am not Dr. Greene and I am not a doctor. Please keep that in mind when reading my comments and replies.

Hi Dr. Greene

I’m 13 years old and I got stung by a bee for the first time when I was in preschool.I got stung on my leg by a bee a week ago and it was swelling for more than 48 hours. After a week, the area where I was stung became bruised. I got stung by another bee on my hand 2 days ago and it’s swelling. My fingers are numb and I can barely move my hand. I didn’t have these problems when I was younger.Is this normal?


Allergies can develop over time and often after repeated exposures. Bee allergies can be serious. Contacting your doctor after a progression like this is typically recommended. She will likely prescribe an epipen for you to carry at all times in case you are exposed again and need to have it at hand.

I hope that helps,
Best, @MsGreene
Note: I am the co-founder of, but I am not Dr. Greene and I am not a doctor. Please keep that in mind when reading my comments and replies.

Dr Greene,

About 10 days ago I got stung by 6 bees on my face, shoulder and hands. There were minor swelling. For first few days I observed that there was change in my bowl movement (not bonded), it got fixed in few days and now I see that there is significant change in colour on my bowl. Two days ago I woke up pain in my left lower rib cage. Which I am suspecting is pain in kidney. Today, pain level has gone down from 7 to 3.

After being stung I took one antihistamine. Haven’t taken any other medication. What would you suggest something.


Hi Dr. Greene,

I was recently stung by several yellow jackets (over a month ago), and while the reaction I had at the time was normal (painful, but not an allergic reaction), I have just noticed a bump in one of the locations of the stings that is raised and scabbed over. Is it possible that the site of the sting is taking this long to heal? I hadn’t noticed it until yesterday, and it has me concerned that if it might be something worse if it isn’t related to the sting. Any ideas?

Dear Dr. Green,

My sister was stung by bees on her upper arm when she was about 9 years old and left 4 separate circular bulges on the spots where she was stung. However, these small lumps (no visible pus, and not soft when you touch them) are getting bigger. What should be done with them? Are these dangerous?
Thanks for helping.

Hello Dr. Greene,
This is a strange case!!! My son is a geology student and he travelled to Arizona last fall where he was exploring caves in a field. He was stung on the L wrist by what he believed to be a yellow jacket. He has a history at age 8 or 9 of a bee sting allergy where he broke up from head to toe with hives. Had lip, feet and hand swelling also. Benadryl helped and he has an epi pen now. Allergy testing revealed 3-4 bees that he was allergic to. Back to the Arizona story. He developed dizziness and nausea after being stung then took Benadryl which made the symptoms but he developed localized hives on his wrist that would appear a few times a day. It has been 8 months and he is still developing hives almost daily but now is getting shooting pains from his wrist to his middle finger. Any thoughts, suggestions, or advise?

My 7year old son kicked a ball and we presume the bush it landed in was hiding a bees nest he was stung a multiple of times I think 12. 5 being in his head he run in from the garden with many still attached and I got stung 3 times trying to get them off he was screaming in extreme pain which I can say was on a scale of 10 as my few hurt tremendously. I managed to get them off but he was in so much pain and fatigue that I threw him in the car and rushed him 2 mins down the road to walk in centre there his breathing was rasp and and his blood pressure dropped they rung ambulance and started removing stings which a mostly I’d down after watching a film my girl. His reaction was extreme as we had missed one sting and the venom was still injecting. This was a extremely scary situation for him and the family to experience .Thanks to ambulance staff and doctors he got well agin but 6 months later he seems to be getting pains in his head and itching where the sting which was left occurred should I be worried and get him checked or is this common symptoms. I’m confused thought the venom lasted 2 weeks. Worried mum

I was stung by a hornet on the Belt Parkway. If flew into car while stuck in traffic. I immediately felt pain under arm, and then I started to break out in a horrible puscular rash extending all down my arms chest back. Probably over 100 bumps, extreme itchy and painful. Was seen in urgent care and followed up with primary and dermatologist. It’s been several weeks and the rash is just about gone. But where the hornet stung me is still very painful. The dermatogust prescribed antibiotics and explained I had an bacterial infection from hornet. I have never experienced anything so uncomfortable before. Finally starting to feel better after six weeks. What the heck kind of bugs are these! I have numbness and tingling in the arm that was bite. Will this ever go away?

I have asked and never received answers from anyone here or my own doctors. I was stung in June and still have some neuropathy issues like numbness, tingling, burning and now muscle spasms and constant twitching in my hand. Doctors just do not know because my tests keep coming back great. I can assure them that this all started after being stung but they have pretty much ignored because they cannot figure out why venom would cause this. I hope you get the help you need and that this is temporary for both of us.

I was stung last week. I believe it was a yellow jacket. The sting occurred on my wrist bone. The pain was severe and lasted for two days. My wrist got better and I thought this was behind me until another couple days had past and wide spread itching began. For the last few days, the itching has been off and on, mostly on, moving anywhere from head to toe. I understand this can be a delayed reaction to being stung. Do you know how long this is likely to go on or what I can do to make it stop? Do I need to see an allergist? My sister is highly allergic to bee stings but has never had this type of reaction. Thanks!

My husband (70) was mowing and ran into a swarm of bumble bees. He was stung at least 5 times on the head, shoulders and hands. He ran into the house, caught his breath, took a cool shower and a benedryl. There is really very little swelling and he said it is not painful. we went to get something to eat, returned home and he started throwing up and has diarrhea. Should we go to the er?

I know this is for bee stings, but I got stung by a wasp over 25 days ago I’m slightly allergic and it was extremely painful for several days, it went away for weeks but today as I got changed from my school clothes to leisure wear today I accidentally brushed against it and realised it was really swollen and also very painful again. My dad (who’s fatally allergic to bees) and my mother (who also has quite bad reactions to wasps) are both very confused and so far I have found nothing about this sort of phenomenon. I put anthisan cream on it hoping it would help and I’m waiting for stuff to happen. I don’t think its very serious, its just sore and swollen almost a month after and I wondered if there would be an answer to it.

Hi Finn, I had the same experience today. In may case it sounds crazy. I was bitten by a bee over a year ago. It was the first time ever been bitten. It was no big deal. Was all done in a couple of days. However washing my hands this morning the reaction was back again. Same finger, same swollen reaction and same spot. It made absolutely no sense. I know for sure I did not get stung again. This is definitely the same reaction from a year ago. The reaction now is bizarre. Been looking online for some form of explanation of recurring bee sting. Your post is the only thing close to what I just experienced. I hope its not a symptom of something more serious.

I’m sorry for your extreme delay and increased reaction. I’m curious if you ever found an answer!?! My 5 year old was stung a month ago, site was red and raised about a week… He woke up today and said he was stung again and sure enough the EXACT site of the month-old sting is red and swollen as if he were just stung (only this time there is clearly no stinger). I cannot find anything on reactions this delayed. I might be heading to the dr :(
Good luck to you!!!

Hi Dr. Greene,

I was stung on the head (left side). After couple-few hours the side of the head went red and itchy, it came all the way down to the neck. After a week I still have had a painful lump in my neck and now I have another lump near there.
I been diagnosed with Graves disease, does bee sting somehow be dangerous or affect me differently somehow?

i was just stung on the left side of my head about 3 days ago and the day after when I woke up I felt a lump at the base of my head right below the bee sting.

Got stung by a red wasp yesterday around 2pm. Today, my leg is slightly swollen, itching about from sting( just below knee) to about 6 inches below. The same area also feels very warm to the touch. Should I wait it out or see a doctor?

Last summer while setting up for my wedding I was barefoot and walking around at night (about 11 p.m.) and I felt a severe burning on the top of my foot. My fiance was smoking a cigarette, so I thought he had accidentally flicked the cherry onto my foot; it hurt so damn bad I screamed and instinctively swiped at my foot. Then I noticed the burning cherry of the cigarette was still intact, and my fiance immediately turned on the flashlight on his phone. Next to my foot was what I assumed to be a yellow jacket. Upon inspecting my foot, it had a hole in it, like the little sh*t had taken a bite out of my skin (still have the scar). My entire foot felt like it was on fire until morning, and I couldn’t sleep because my leg would have muscle spasms every few minutes or so that would jolt my body–we elevated the foot and strapped an ice pack on it, which offered no relief. In the morning, my entire foot and ankle were swollen and I couldn’t walk on it. The swelling went away after about 7 days, but the nasty hole took months to heal.

My question: Is this normal, or should I be concerned?

I live in TN now and was repairing a fence and didn’t know I stepped in a nest of yellow jackets! I got stung all over my body and ran into the house and my wife gave me Benadryl. The pain was horrible all day and I couldn’t sleep all night! Two days later and I am still swollen and I have 3 holes in my biceps where I was stung! I been stung by yellow jackets in Michigan and never experienced severe pain or had holes left from being stung!

I was stung by a swarm of bees that came out of the bush by my garage as I was walking by. I was stung several times on my feet. It is two years later and where was stung the worst was on my left foot, my last three toes. It flares up frequently being red and irritated looking and almost blister-like pustules on the underside of my toes. The itching is enough to make me crazy. Is this a reaction from the bee stings, still two years later?

Would the delayed reactions to bee venom like neuritis be temporary? I was stung two wks ago and experienced the nausea flu type sypmtoms and now neuritis on my limbs. Went to the ER for first time in my life and they were clueless. Prescribed cortisone for a few days which I was hesitant to take but need to make sure I don’t get permanent damage so I am taking them. I cannot find anyone describing these symptoms and what to do for it. Can you advise please? My doctor cannot see me for a month and I was hoping to get blood work to make sure I am not getting any other of the reactions you mentioned above. Praying it is only temporary.

I’m having the same problem. Did your nerve issues go away?

My son (6 year old) was stung on his lip two days ago. There was pain and swelling but no stinger. Maybe it was a yellow jacket? We used a baking soda paste and watched him carefully. Swelling went down by morning almost completely. But the next morning itbis swollen again. What should we do?

I was stung yesterday on my middle finger by 2 bees at the same time (I’m pretty sure they were making out😂) it really hurt and it still hurts after 24 hours

Pain level:
When I was stung:8
Few minutes after:6
Hours after:8
Next morning:9
Afternoon of next day:10
Night of next day:10

The pain is an aching pain on all of my my fingers,

But why?

Hi Jenna,

That sounds super painful. I’m so sorry!

Perhaps this is a type of delayed reaction. Dr. Greene says “Delayed reactions result when the body’s immune system prepares for future stings, but some of the exuberant defense measures inadvertently turn against the body itself. These symptoms begin more than four hours after the initial sting. ” He discuss bee sting reactions in more depth in this article –> Bee Sting Reactions & Treatments.

Best, @MsGreene
Note: I am the co-founder of, but I am not Dr. Greene and I am not a doctor. Please keep that in mind when reading my comments and replies.

I was stung twice on the arm by a bee and two lumps appeared. The lumps are still there although it was two months ago. Why would they not go? I am 59 and wondered if it due to a lack of elasticity in my body?

I was stung 3 times by a bumblebee, 2 times by a honeybee, 3 times by a yellowjacket, and 17 times by a fire ant(due to 3x of swarming many years ago, and 1 fire ant last year).
Thankfully, I’m not allergic to any of those stings, and swelling was somewhat mild.

I have thankfully gotten no allergic reactions of any type.

But while they did hurt, I later found out they were FAR from the most painful insect stings.

After reading the Guinness Book of World Records 2017, I found out the most painful insect sting, then did research and found something big.

There are some insects with much more painful stings out there, listed, by an entomologist named Justin O. Schmidt.
He studied insects, and got stung 1000 times by 83 types of insects, and ranked them on a 4-point scale, from 0 to 4.

He made colorful descriptions, comparing their sensations to other scenarios to give everyone an idea of them.

Most people try to get away from insects and other creatures that might bite/sting, but he did otherwise.
He gave his life in the name of Science.

He’s known as “The Man of 1000 Stings”.

I’m showing you his list of insect stings with descriptions (and their Scientific Latin names), not for plagairism, but to give you emphasis.
Ranking from least to most painful.
Here’s a list of them:

Club-horned Wasp (Sapyga pumila)
Pain level: 0.5
Description: Dissapointing; A paper clip falls on your bare foot.

Triepeolus sp. (A type of bee)
Pain level: 0.5
Description: Did I just imagine that?; A little scratch that dances with a tickle.

Potter Wasp (Eumeninae sp.)
Pain level: 0.5
Description: Looks deceive. Rich and full bodied in appearance, but flavorless.

Indian Jumping Ant (Harpegnathos saltator)
Pain level: 1
Description: Ah, that wonderful wake up feeling, like coffee, but oh so bitter.

Delicate Trap-jaw Ant (Anochetus inermis)
Pain level: 1
Description: A tiny spark, just enough to rouse you from a dreamy stroll in the woods; a slight jolt as you return in reality.

Bothroponera striglosa (A type of African black ant)
Pain level: 1
Description: Timid, but not painless; A pebble kicked up by a passing car ricochets off your ankle.

Asian Needle Ant (Brachyponera chinensis)
Pain level: 1
Description: Nightfall following a day at the beach. You forgot the sunscreen, your burned nose lets you know.

Big-eyed Ant (Opthalmopone berthoudi)
Pain level: 1
Description: A sharp interruption as you absorb the beauty of Africa; An acacia spine just poked through your sandal.

Ectatomma ruidum (A type of black ant)
Pain level: 1
Description: A brief searing; like tuna on a grill. The bottom is blanched, but not cooked through.

Leptogenes kitteli (A type of Asian army ant)
Pain level: 1
Description: Simple and plain; A loose carpet tack pierces the ball of your wool-socked foot.

Elongated Twig Ant (Pseudomyrmex gracilis)
Pain level: 1
Description: Reminiscent of a childhood bully; Intimidating, but his punch only glanced your chin, and you live for another day.

Slender Twig Ant (Tetraponera sp.)
Pain level: 1
Description: A skinny bully’s punch; It’s too weak to hurt you, but you suspect a cheap trick might be coming

Anthophorid bee (Emphoropsis pallida)
Description: Almost pleasant; a lover just bit your earlobe a little too hard.

Sweat Bees (Lasioglossum spp.)
Pain level: 1
Description: Light and ephemeral, almost fruity; A tiny spark has singed a single hair on your arm.

Cactus Bee (Diadasia rinconis)
Pain level: 1
Description: A skewering message: GET LOST! Surprising, because you did not touch a cactus spine, until you realize it’s from a bee.

Cuckoo Bee (Ericrocis lata)
Pain level: 1
Description: Touch of fear unrealized; Oh, and I wanted to show you how brave I was!

Little Wasp (Polybia occidentalis)
Pain level: 1
Description: Sharp meets spice; A slender cactus spine brushed against a buffalo wing before it poked your arm.

Great Black Wasp (Sphex pensylvanicus)
Pain level: 1
Description: Simple and presumptious; Your younger sibling just nipped at your pinkie finger.

Iridescent Cockroach Hunter (Chlorion cynaeum)
Pain level: 1
Description: Itchy with a hint of sharpness; A single stinging nettle pricked your hand.

Scarab Hunter Wasp (Triscolia ardens)
Pain level: 1
Description: Like a sip of tannin, bitterness lingers.

Water-walking Wasp (Euodynerus crypticus)
Pain level: 1
Description: Clever, but trivial?; A little like magic in that you cannot quite figure out the difference between pain and illusion.

Mud Dauber (Sceliphron carmentarium)
Pain level: 1
Description: Sharp with a flare of heat; Jalapeno cheese when you were expecting Havarti.

Little White Velvet Ant (Technically a Wasp – Dasymutilla thetis)
Pain level: 1
Description: Deceptive, like the name. Immediate, rashy, you want to scratch away the kiss of itch; A sand crab pinched your toe while you tanned.

Red Fire Ant (Solenopsis invicta)
Pain Level: 1.2
Description: Sharp, sudden, mildly alarming; Like walking across a shag carpet and reaching for the light switch.

Tropical Fire Ant (Solenopsis geminata)
Pain level: 1.2
Description: You should have learned, but the carpet is the same, and when you again reach for the light switch, the shock mocks you.

Southern Fire Ant (Solenopsis xyloni)
Pain level: 1.2
Description: It happens on the 3rd day, as you reach for the light switch, and you’re wondering, when will you ever learn.

European Fire Ant (Myrmica rubra)
Pain level: 1.3
Description: The prickle of stinging nettles against your skin on a hot, humid day.

Pacific Cicada Killer (Sphecius convallis)
Pain level: 1.3
Description: Clean. Concentrated dish detergent seeps into a freshly cut finger.

Giant Sweat Bee (Dieunomia heteropoda)
Pain level: 1.5
Description: Size matters, but it’s not everything; A silver tablespoon drops squarely onto your big toenail, sending you hopping.

Paper Wasp (Polistes versicolor)
Pain level: 1.5
Description: Burning, throbbing, and lonely; A single drop of superheated frying oil landed on your arm.

Thread-waisted Paper Wasp (Belonogaster sp.)
Pain level: 1.5
Description: Attention getting; Like the time your classmate stabbed you with a pencil point.

Samsum Ant (Euponera sennaarensis)
Pain level: 1.5
Description: Pure, sharp, piercing pain; You pressed your thumb on a tack.

Suturing Army Ant (Eciton burchellii)
Pain level: 1.5
Description: A cut on your elbow, stitched with a rusty needle.

Ectatomma tuberculatum (A large golden ant)
Pain level: 1.5
Description: A slow stream of hot wax poured over your wrist. You want to twist away, but you can’t.

Giant Ant (Dinoponera gigantea)
Pain level: 1.5
Description: A pulsing sting with some flavor; You stepped into a salt bath with an open wound.

Giant Stink Ant (Paltothyreus tarsatus)
Pain level: 1.5
Description: You must have upset the nurses. They stuck you with a big needle and then dribbled in garlic oil.

Western Cicada Killer (Sphecius grandis)
Pain level: 1.5
Description: Pain at first sight, like poison oak, the more you rub, the worse it gets.

Multillidae sp. (A nocturnal velvet ant)
Pain level: 1.5
Description: Itch, burn, and more itch; A toothpick dipped in both itch powder and hot sauce is stuck in your thigh.

Bulldog Ant type. 1 (Myrmecia simillima)
Pain level: 1.5
Description: Intense, ripping, and sharp; The dog’s tooth found its mark.

Red Bull Ant (Myrmecia gulosa)
Pain level: 1.5
Description: A sneaky, unassuming ache; Like a brightly colored LEGO, charming till it’s lodged in the arch of your foot in the dark.

Bulldog Ant type. 2 (Myrmecia rufinodis)
Pain level: 1.5
Description: Shockingly sharp; A scalpel just lanced your palm.

Metabele Ant (Megaponera analis)
Pain level: 1.5
Description: A child’s arrow misses its target and finds its home in your calf.

Ectatomma quadridens (A type of big black ant)
Pain level: 1.5
Description: A burning itch to catch your attention, followed by regret; like ordering spicy chicken wings when you have a mouth sore.

Ferocious Polybia Wasp (Polybia rejecta)
Pain level: 1.5
Description: Like a trick gone wrong; Your posterior is a target for a BB gun. Bull’s-eye over and over.

Bullhorn Acacia Ant (Pseudomyrex nigrocinctus)
Pain level: 1.8
Description: A rare, piercing, elevated sort of pain; Someone has fired a staple into your cheek.

Diacamma sp. (A type of black ant)
Pain level: 2
Description: Nothing subtle about this one. Sudden and striking; a shard of glass on a tropical beach pulls you out of the moment as it finds a nerve in your bare foot.

Large Tropical Black Ant (Neoponera villosa)
Pain level: 2
Description: Exquisitely sharp and expertly clean; Broadway’s favorite barber selects his next victim.

Neoponera crassinoda (A type of big black ant)
Pain level: 2
Description: This one packs a punch; The dentist should have given that novocaine more time to take effect.

Termite-raiding Ant (Neoponera commutate)
Pain level: 2
Description: The debilitating pain of a migraine contained in the tip of your finger. And their queen can sting like her sisters!

Bald-faced hornet (Dolichovespula maculata)
Pain level: 2
Description: Rich, hearty, slightly crunchy; Similar to getting your hand mashed in a revolving door.

Honey Wasp (Brachygastra mellificia)
Pain level: 2
Description: Spicy, blistering; A cotton swab dipped in habanero sauce has been pushed up your nose.

Artistic Wasp (Parachartergus fraternus)
Pain level: 2
Description: Pure, then messy, then corrosive; Love and marriage followed by divorce.

Western Honeybee (Apis mellifera)
Pain level: 2
Description: Burning, corrosive, but you can handle it; A flaming matchhead lands on your arm and is quenched first with lye and then sulfuric acid.

Bumblebees (Bombus spp.)
Pain level: 2
Description: Colorful flames; Fireworks land on your arm.

Western Yellowjacket (Vespula pensylvanica)
Pain level: 2
Description: Hot and smoky, almost irreverent; Imagine W.C. Fields extinguishing a cigar on your tongue.

Californian Carpenter Bee (Xylocopa californica)
Pain level: 2
Description: Swift, sharp, and decisive; Your fingertip has been slammed by a car door.

Jack Jumper Ant (Myrmecia pilosula)
Pain level: 2
Description: The oven mitt had a hole in it when you pulled the cookies out of the oven.

Metallic Green Ant (Rhytidoponera metallica)
Pain level: 2
Description: Deceptively painful; Like biting into a green bell pepper to find it is a habanero chili.

African Giant Ant (Streblognathus aethiopicus)
Pain level: 2
Description: The white hot burn of a barbecue fork impaling your hand, pared with the grizzle of a serrated knife.

Platythyrea lamellose (A purple ant)
Pain level: 2
Description: Relentless prickling throughout your body; Like wearing a wool jumpsuit laced with pine needles and poison ivy.

Platythyrea pilosula (A sleek ant)
Pain level: 2
Description: A torturous itch and rash with serious lasting power: Should have spent the extra money and paid for a licensed tattoo artist.

Colonial Thread-Waisted Wasp (Belonogaster juncea colonialis)
Pain level: 2
Description: Tenacious in a stringy way. Tangy; You can’t extract yourself from the man-o-war’s tentacles.

Unstable Paper Wasp (Polistes instabilis)
Pain level: 2
Description: Like a dinner guest who stays much too long, the pain drones on; A hot dutch oven lands on your hand and you can’t get it off.

Glorious Velvet Ant (Technically a Wasp – Dasymutilla gloriosa)
Pain level: 2
Description: Instantaneous, like the surprise of being stabbed. Is this what shrapnel feels like?

Trap-jaw Ant (Odontomachus spp.)
Pain level: 2.5
Description: Instantaneous and excruciating; A rat trap snaps your index fingernail.

Nocturnal Hornet (Provespa sp.)
Pain level: 2.5
Description: Rude, insulting; An ember from your campfire is glued to your forearm.

Giant Bornean Carpenter Bee (Xylocopa sp.)
Pain level: 2.5
Description: Electrifying, sharp, and piercing; Next time, hire an electrician.

Golden Paper Wasp (Polistes aurifer)
Pain level: 2.5
Description: Sharp, piercing, and immediate; You know what cattle feel when they are branded.

Yellow Fire Wasp (Agelaia myrmecophilia)
Pain level: 2.5
Description: An odd, distressing pain; Tiny blowtorches kiss your arms and legs.

Fierce Black Polybia Wasp (Polybia simillima)
Pain level: 2.5
Description: A ritual gone wrong, satanic; The gas lamp in the old church explodes in your face when you light it.

Dasymutilla klugii (A huge velvet ant, technically a wasp, the Cow Killer)
Pain level: 3
Description: Explosive and long lasting, you sound insane as you scream. Hot oil from the deep fryer spilling over your entire hand.

Florida Harvester Ant (Pogonomyrmex badius)
Pain level: 3
Description: Bold and unrelenting; Somebody is using a power drill to excavate your ingrown toenail.

Maricopa Harvester Ant (Pogonomyrex maricopa)
Pain level: 3
Description: After 8 unrelenting hours of drilling into that ingrown toenail, you find the drill is wedged in the toe.

Argentine Harvester Ant (Ephebomyrmex cunicularis)
Pain level: 3
Description: A ferocious pang lasting 12 hours or more; Flesh-eating bacteria dissolve your muscles, one by precious one.

Red Paper Wasp (Polistes canadensis)
Pain level: 3
Description: Caustic and burning, with a distinctly bitter aftertaste; Like spilling a beaker of hydrochloric acid on a paper cut.

Red-headed Paper Wasp (Polistes erythrocephalis)
Pain level: 3
Description: Immediate, irrationally intense, and unrelenting; This is the closest you will come to seeing the blue of a flame from within the fire.

Giant Paper Wasp (Megapolistes sp.)
Pain level: 3
Description: There are gods, and they dod throw their thunderbolts; Poseidon just rammed his trident into your breast.

Tarantula Hawk (A Spider Wasp – Pepsis spp.)
Pain level: 4
Description: Blinding, fierce, shockingly electric; A running hair dryer has just been dropped into your bubblebath.

Warrior Wasp (a.k.a. Armidillo Wasp – Synoeca septentrionalis)
Pain level: 4+
Description: Torture; You are chained in the flow of an active volcano.

Bullet Ant (Paraponera clavata)
Pain level: 4+
Description: Pure, intense, brilliant pain; Like walking over flaming charcoal with a 3″ nail embedded in your heel.

So I was stung by Red Fire Ants, Western Honeybees, Bumblebees, Yellowjackets, and one type of different wasp, possibly the Bald-faced Hornet.
Glad it wasn’t anything worse.
Other than the pain of the yellowjacket sting, the other symptoms I experienced were nothing other than mild tiredness for a little while, but that was no allergic reaction.
Thank science, and the “hero” behind it, we now have knowledge.

Dear Dr. Greene, My son, age 24 was stung by a wasp on the left temple area 2.5 months ago. He had a local and systemic reaction to it right away, which was treated by a Doctor in urgent care. He received a steroid injection, a medrol dose pack, and given adrenalin for future use. When he was 9 years old he had a similar sting and similar treatment, but for 3 months he was dizzy and had several fainting spells.

Now he has become very light headed and cannot drive his truck or go to work because he feels like he will pass out. He went to the Emergency Room and was checked for diabetes and thyroid, both of which are normal. Is this still that wicked bee sting bothering him? What can we do? He needs to work!

I believe the original question was, “How long does bee venom remain in your system?” I’m not a doctor. I can only relay my personal experience. When I was about 8 years old, I uprooted a yellow jacket nest. Suffice to say, I was stunk several hundred times (they stopped counting after several hundred) and was hospitalized for several days. Ever since, I’m now 53, bees of any variety, gravitate to me like a magnet. They land on me constantly, swarm around me, especially my head, but I have NEVER been stung. So I’d have to say, depending on the severity of the attack, something remains a vey long time.

Wow so your like a bee whisperer!

I don’t know if this is related, but I was stung in the middle of the small of my back at least 25 yrs ago. I have a scar that used to periodically swell. Now…I am getting burning pain several times a day in this area. Is it related???? What can I do for it? I know it sounds very strange. Brenda

My girlfriend got stung on the back of her head nearly 7 months ago. Her family has a history of allergic reactions to stings, so she was given the proper medication for two weeks after the sting. The symptoms went away, but now in the same spot where she was stung there is a redness and soreness. Is there any explanation for this?

Hey my name is Justin. i was riding a motorcycle yesterday early afternoon when something flew into my neck, I felt a sharp but mild burn first, so i tried to rub it off. As soon as i touched where the burning was on my neck it increased the pain by like 200%, I stopped at a nearby gas station when I discovered a bee’s stinger I presume it was. It is about 24 hours later and it spread the entire bottom of my neck and piece of my shoulder which is red and swollen. I usually don’t have any reactions except the usual bit of swelling and what not but this time it is spreading. Should i worry due to this exact thing happened to me a month back but symptoms lasted an hour and not much longer. Thank you.

I was stung in June 3 times by a wasp in the back of my heal and also on my hand .
It is now December and my ankle burns like the wasp is still stinging me . What can I do to stop this torture. It happens several times a day with a burning pain. I am allergic to all bees and wasp bites and had to take a large dose of benedryl and had a lot of swelling in my hand and ankle. Is there a way to stop this burning pain ?

Everyone keeps asking questions that are answered in the article. Beyond that, see a doctor ASAP. Unfortunately it seems the doctor who wrote the article cannot answer all the questions. So, if it’s alright, I will share some things that I have observed. I am not a doctor, this is not medical advice. This is my own opinion I am sharing. Evaluate according to your own discretion.
From my experience ( I get stung by sweat bees several times a day, every day, yes even in bad weather- I live near a field), it is important to not only remove the stinger ( which can be extremely small depending on the size of the bee or wasp…maybe less than 1/32 of an inch..get a jewelers loop), but I have to gently get the venom out. EACH AND EVERY time. It is usually mixed with the white blood cells, clear liquid my body releases to combat the venom and can be as little as a drop the size of head of a pin. But I carefully squeeze it out and apply alcohol. If it looks like it’s getting red or infected I go to the doctor and get an antibiotic ASAP.
The sight where the sting occurred reacts specifically. In other words, when I got stung near my ear, I had an inner ear imbalance for several weeks. When I was stung near my thyroid,on my neck, I went HYPO (documented as reactive hypothyroid) for a year ! On my chest, it caused an arrythmia so near the heart. On my hand, joint inflammation. Remember our skin is really quite thin, and the bee venom has the ability to travel into nearby nerves, blood vessels and muscles. Look up “insect venom” and you will see how it is designed by nature to attack nerve function and other things.
If you have a swelling and hardness over the bite months or even years later, it may mean the stinger is still in the skin, and perhaps even venom within the sac that is at the end of the stinger. The body does not dissolve it. It must be removed by a doctor under magnification. The hard skin is the body’s attempt to “live with it” and it surrounds the stinger with a protective callous.
I personally have felt flu-ey, achey, nauseous, dizzy and anxious for a few days after a bad sting day. My muscles will ache, I will get sleepy right after a sting, too. Sometimes the sting does not “register” with my system for many hours, and I won’t feel sick until late that night, or even the next morning.
And, yes, I’m planning on moving as soon as I can.
I hope you guys all feel better soon. Go to the doctor if you feel sick. This story was just to help your understanding. This article was excellent, but sharing is supportive.

Brookie, this article did not address long term symptoms. Many of the questions and comments here are about inexplicable symptoms months or years later.

Did you ever experience neuritis after your stings?

Hi Bookie,

Thanks so much for your response.

You are accurate that many of the questions in the comment section are answered in the original article. It can be difficult for people to sort through the entire text to find what applies to them. As a result they ask questions that have been answered. You are also accurate that the doctor who wrote the original post does not answer questions that have already been addressed in the article.

Thanks for sharing your experiences.

Best, @MsGreene
Note: I am the co-founder of, but I am not Dr. Greene and I am not a doctor. Please keep that in mind when reading my comments and replies.

I was at the beach yesterday and stepped on a bee so it stung me on the side of my toe and it was fine after fifteen minutes but now a day later it started hurting out of nowhere in the middle of the day and it feels like I broke it. Looks quite swollen and I can’t walk on it. What can I use (something that I’ll most likely have at home?) to help me

My 4 year old son get stung by a bumblebee on his neck or we could go today at Disney World we took over the first day they put some sting stuff on it and some Benadryl in swelling and everything went down now a week later he woke up and at the sting site was swollen and pink is this normal. I personally got the stinger out myself.


This sounds like a delayed sting reaction. Dr. Greene says “Delayed reactions result when the body’s immune system prepares for future stings, but some of the exuberant defense measures inadvertently turn against the body itself. These symptoms begin more than four hours after the initial sting. Delayed reactions include serum sickness (fever, weakness, rash, swelling, and/or intense itching which begin a week after the sting), nephrotic syndrome (inflammation of the kidney), neuritis (inflammation of the nerves), or inflammation of other parts of the body.” To find out more, click here.

Best, @Msgreene
Note: I answer a lot of questions on, I am the co-founder of, Dr. Greene’s business partner and wife, but I am a not doctor. Please keep that in mind when reading my comments and replies.

I got stung in the face by a yellow jacket and I am allergic to them I am starting to feel sick to the stomach and got a really bad headache what should I do


If you already know you’re allergic, it’s time to get to an ER. If you think it’s not life-threatening, you can look for a less expensive Urgent Care Clinic.

Let us know how this all goes.

Co-founder & Executive Producer, Mom
Note: Not Dr. Greene, not a doctor. Keep that in mind when reading my comments and replies.

I was stung by a hornet (looks similar to the yellow jacket) on the thumb and the next day on the eyebrow by a honey bee — both stingers were removed. Since then my blood pressure has been elevated (now a week) — is this normal?

I was stung by a bee last week (Around 9th November) and when the stinger was pulled out after a few minutes, the area became a welt instantly and went down after a few hours. However, on the safer side, I consulted the doctor and he gave me antibiotic for me to consume. Now, a week has past and the area around the stinger was is still slightly swollen and it is itchy too.

Can I know is it normal for it to itch after 1 week and the area being slightly swollen? Appreciate if you could reply to my question. Thank you!

I was stung by a bumble bee and now I have a red line of swollenness running up my leg is this normal

Go to Urgent Care or E. R. a red line is not a good sign

My son (6years old)was stung by a bee yesterday, early afternoon and by midnight he was vomiting and had a fever. He has also been coughing quite a bit and very thirsty. Is this related to the bee sting? Do I need to take him to a doctor?

Hi Sarah,

Dr. Greene says, “Systemic reactions such as hives, redness, or swelling elsewhere on the body, vomiting, dizziness, hoarseness, thickened speech, or difficulty breathing, should receive prompt medical care from a physician.”

I hope this is helpful,
Co-founder & Executive Producer, Mom
Note: Not Dr. Greene, not a doctor. Keep that in mind when reading my comments and replies.

Hello there,
I was stung on 9th Oct by a yellow jacket, since then I have suffered a fever, sore throat, cough and wheezing which has lasted almost 5 weeks… I feel super drained… Im 42 and shouldn’t be this tired.. Can you please advise if there is anything I can do to stop these symptoms?
Thanks and regards

You are having an allergic reaction to the bee sting toxin.
Go to the doctor or hospital immediately.


That sounds miserable.

Dr. Greene writes to another reader, “Treatment of allergies includes preventing stings, carrying epinephrine (that should be injected following a sting whenever there are any systemic symptoms such as dizziness, swelling of the lips or tongue, or difficulty breathing), corticosteroids, antihistamines, and/or possibly allergy shots.”

Have you tried over the counter antihistamines, such as Benadryl? This may provide a level of relief, though many people experience drowsiness from Benadryl. If you are one of the, consider an non-sedating antihistamine, such as Zyrtec.

I hope that’s helpful, @MsGreene
Co-founder and Executive Producer
Note: I answer a lot of questions on, I am the co-founder of, Dr. Greene’s business partner, but I am a not doctor. Please keep that in mind when reading my comments and replies.


I got stung by a bee 3 days back on my right thigh, I have taken antihistamine last 2 days, swelling and redness reduced a bit, but the pain is intense today around the bite. Will the pain persist till 3 days? Should I see a doctor or will the pain go away?

I get flu like symptoms and a migraine that last a week every time I get stung, but has I get older it gets worse. soar throat, nausea, dizziness, light headed. medication doesn’t seem to help.

I was bit by a honey bee on my inner thigh four days ago. I took allergy medication, as I am allergic. The swelling in the site of the sting is getting larger by the day and is now painful. Today I feel groggy, and am running a 101 degree fever. My entire body is achy. I was bit about 15 years ago and went in to Anaphylactic shock along with hives and swelling of my entire body. Advise please!!

Hi! I was stung about 2 weeks ago by a striped bee and my lower thigh. It itched for a few days after but nothing much. Fast forward and I am now experiencing hives that come and go all over my body! If anyone has any info on this please leave it below!!!

I was stung almost 2 weeks ago and it seemed to be getting better a few day ago, it is now back and is even worse?

Hey can someone please help me
I was stung by a bee on my back
And I still get pains from where it stung me what’s happening


How long ago were you stung?


I was in my backyard and i was walking as my foot came down a bee flew under it quickly and stung my bottom foot at first i didnt realize i was stung and steped down pushing it more in sadly and when i left my foot up the bee was still alive with the stinger stuck i. My foot so i pulled both the bee and stinger out and clean my foot and stuff well it swelled about 2 inchs and was numb now a week later its soo itchy am i allergic or is that normal? My mon is allergic to them..


Dr. Greene says, “Delayed reactions result when the body’s immune system prepares for future stings, but some of the exuberant defense measures inadvertently turn against the body itself. These symptoms begin more than four hours after the initial sting. Delayed reactions … intense itching which begin a week after the sting).”

There “are two types of tests can help predict whether someone will have an allergic reaction to future bee stings. Neither test is perfect, but each can be useful as a supplement to the other. Skin testing … [and a] blood test called the RAST test”.

You can ask your doctor if you are a candidate for either test.

Co-founder & Executive Producer, Mom

I was stung on my outer thigh earlier this summer, no biggie…to date I have a softball size area of numbness where I was stung. What’s up with that? Never have I ever had a reaction to bee sting.

My 1 yr old was stung this morning , I gave her antihistamine and almost 8 hrs later she has a fever of 39 . I’m keeping a close eye, but I had no idea these bees could do that !

I was stung yesterday and woke up this morning nauseated and dizzy. I sat my arm on a grocery cart right onto the bee squashing into my arm. I can’t tell if the stinger is out. Its very sore and red.
Should I be worried about it ?

Did you ever get a response? I’m in the same boat and not sure if I need treatment or if it will just pass. Stepped on a bee yesterday and today I have flu-like symptoms. Not sure what to do about it.

My 7 year old son was stung by a bee about 2- 2.5 weeks ago, on the side of his knee. It swelled up really big the next day, and caused a slight limp, and ended up getting a couple of small blisters. It all healed itself within a few days and he went back to being his normal, active self. About a week and a half ago, he started complaining of pain in the same leg. At first it wasn’t too bad, and I didn’t give much attention to it (I figured it was one of the many pains my kids always complain about but never amount to anything and they forget about it). Gradually, it got worse, and he began to limp and complain more frequently. Took him to the doctor, who did an x-ray and blood work. All tests came back normal, so we had him take it easy on that leg and rest a bit. Still though, his leg got worse, to the point where he can’t walk on it, so we took him to the ER two days ago. X-rays, blood work, ultrasound… all normal. No fever, no swelling, or anything else. He was given a boot for his leg, in case he has a micro fracture. The boot helped for a day, but now his pain is so bad, he can’t walk with the boot and he can’t move his leg hardly at all. We are going to take him back to the doctor in the morning, but can’t fathom what might be going on. Could the bee sting and these symptoms be at all related??? I feel like the answer is no, but we are at a loss for what might be wrong with him.

This sounds a lot like the symptoms of Complex Regional Pain Syndrome. It’s also called Reflex Sympathetic Dystrophy. It’s a bit outdated now, but some of the best info was at
Dr. Hooshang Hooshmand got me out of a wheelchair, unfortunately he’s no longer practicing.

Instead of a bee sting causing mine, I was tripped by a kid at school. It doesn’t need to be any specific type of trauma, although certain types seem to be more common than others in causing it. Unexpected trauma seems to be worse. Rare for someone playing football or some other contact sport to get it for example.

Did you take him back in? Did they find anything? My 2 year old has these same symptoms. I’m so worried, I started looking up things and found your story. Is he ok now?

My husband got stung probably 500 plus times by africanized killer bees in Phoenix Arizona last week. We took him to the ER but the hospital said they had never had a case of this many bee stings and they basically didn’t know what to do. Very odd that a hospital didn’t know what to do. They gave him a steroid shot and let him sleep for five hours and sent us home with hundreds maybe thousands of stingers in him. We looked it up on the internet and saw that we should take a credit card and scrape over the stingers and got out as many as we could. The bees chased him for three blocks and got him on the forehead, neck, arms, and back. Back because he pulled a shirt over his head to try to protect his head but they still got him numerous times on the face. It’s been ten days and he has bad muscle aches, nauseous, muscle spasms in his esophagus, sweats, and all around discomfort. His family Dr. today gave him an allergy shot but said that the venom will be in his system for a very long time if not forever. Is that true.

My mother (70 years old) got stung by a bee about a month ago on her hand and it has been a month and that area (about an inch around) is still swollen and it itches now and then. Does this warrant a visit to the doctor? Or should we wait and see?

I got stung yesterday didn’t think anything of it just a normal bee sting was fine all day but when I woke up this morning my arm was in a lot of pain very heavy and feels weak and sore I got stung on my arm the inside close to my arm pit and I didn’t get the stinger out there wasn’t one in there and all around it is very red what could be the problem?


As Dr. Greene says, “Delayed reactions result when the body’s immune system prepares for future stings, but some of the exuberant defense measures inadvertently turn against the body itself. These symptoms begin more than four hours after the initial sting. Delayed reactions include serum sickness (fever, weakness, rash, swelling, and/or intense itching which begin a week after the sting), nephrotic syndrome (inflammation of the kidney), neuritis (inflammation of the nerves), or inflammation of other parts of the body.”

Bee sting treatment includes:

  1. An antihistamine such as Benadryl, taken by mouth, can give some added relief, and help prevent the reaction from spreading.
  2. A shake lotion such as calamine can be helpful. A paste made of baking soda and water can have a similar effect.
  3. Topical hydrocortisone can also provide some symptomatic relief.
  4. Give acetaminophen or ibuprofen for systemic pain relief.


A couple years ago, I got stung by a bee on the shoulder, and I had my mom pull out the stinger. Now I have a permanent bump in the same location the bee stung me in. Its a small round bump less than an inch. Is there a way for the bump to go away? What does this mean?