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How to treat a bumblebee sting

bublebee sting
Written by Kevin van Kester | Last update 01-09-2019

Bumblebees are used as natural pollinators in greenhouses. Although bumblebees rarely sting, it can still happen that you are stung. In most cases this only causes a lot of pain, but in some cases it can lead to an allergic reaction. It is therefore important to know how to treat a bumblebee sting. When someone is stung, different reactions can occur. Each reaction requires a different treatment. We will list these for you. Please note: if you do not trust the situation, always call a doctor!

Local reaction

A bumblebee sting causes swelling around the spot and causes redness and itching. This can occur shortly after the sting, but often it happens after a few hours. This can last for hours or even days and the spot can expand a bit. 
In principle, medical treatment is not required for this reaction. Cooling and lubrication with itch relieving ointment reduces the symptoms. If the bumblebee has stung in a sensitive area, for example around the eyes, it is best to take anti-inflammatory medication (such as aspirin or ibuprofen) as soon as possible. 

Local reaction in the mouth or pharynx

Bumblebee stings in the mouth or pharynx can block the airway. Therefore, in this case, you should go directly to the hospital.

Allergic reaction

About 1% of the people get an allergic reaction after a bumblebee sting. This happens within a few seconds to half an hour after being stung. Allergic reactions occur in four gradations, increasing in intensity:
  • Degree 1: itching, redness and swelling all over the body.
  • Degree 2: degree 1 + bowel problems (such as vomiting and diarrhoea).
  • Degree 3: grade 1 and/or 2 + respiratory problems and/or suffocation.
  • Degree 4: grade 1 and/or 2 and/or 3 + heart palpitations, relapses and anaphylactic shock (with dizziness, excessive sweating and cold chills). 
In case of an allergic reaction of grade 1 and 2, call the doctor and follow his/her instructions. When the complaints continue, or when you don’t trust the situation, call an ambulance. In the case of an allergic reaction of grades 3 and 4, always call an ambulance immediately and follow the instructions of the helpline. 

Multiple stings

If a person gets stung multiple times within a short period of time, reactions can occur in the nervous system and/or the bloodstream. In this case, call an ambulance immediately and follow the instructions of the helpline.

Prevent bumblebee sting

Prevention is better than cure. That is why we give you a number of tips to prevent bumblebee stings.
  • Bumblebees are sensitive to odours and can react aggressively to them. These include smells such as perspiration, perfume, aftershave and alcohol. Therefore, wherever possible, avoid dispersing odours in any way. 
  • Colours have also an effect on bumblebees, especially the colour (light) blue. This colour attracts bumblebees. It is better not to wear (light) blue clothing in the greenhouse to reduce the risk of bumblebee stings.
  • Wearing protective clothing reduces the risk of bumblebee stings. Please note that bumblebees can stick through thin materials. 
  • Only touch bumblebee boxes when it is necessary and do so as carefully as possible. If you handle a bumblebee box roughly, for example by picking it up violently or by bumping into it, you can make the bumblebees aggressive, making them sting sooner. 
  • When the bumblebee comes to you, treat the bumblebee calmly. Do not hit or grasp the bumblebee. In most cases, the bumblebee will then leave you alone.

Questions about bumblebee stings
Do you want more information about how to treat a bumblebee sting? Then contact a doctor. 

Kevin KesterAbout Kevin van Kester

Kevin van Kester, specialist in the area of quality management of biological pesticides, has been working with Royal Brinkman since 2013. On the basis of IOBC-guidelines, he structurally monitors the quality of organic products of various producers throughout Europe. "My motivation consists of contributing to higher efficiency of the biological pest control, as such, due to which fewer chemical treatments are required."

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