Today is World Bee Day, in which countries across the world have been celebrating bees and learning more about how they can continue to preserve their existence.
The buzzy little insects do more than just make honey; they play a vital role in pollinating around 35 per cent of the crops which make up the world’s food supply, so it’s fair to say we’d be lost without them.
For some people though a close encounter with a bee can prove a little risky, if they happen to be allergic to their sting – but do all types of bee, particularly the common or garden bumble bee, actually sting?
Here’s what you need to know…
Do bumblebees sting?
While bees might be associated with being able to sting, only female bumblebees – both queens and workers – can actually do so, while male bumblebees (drones) are unable to.
Unlike honeybees, which can only sting once as it leaves its barb in the victim (subsequently dying as a result), a bumblebee can sting repeatedly as its sting has no barbs.
However bumblebees are by and large peaceful insects, which will generally only sting if they feel threatened or if their hive is disturbed.
So unless you accidentally end up doing either of those things you shouldn’t have too much to worry about from bumblebees on a hot sunny day.
What happens when a bumblebee stings someone?
When a bumblebee stings a victim they inject venom into them – leading to swelling and pain around the site of the sting as well as redness and itching.
This normally disappears fairly quickly although can last for a day or two in some cases.
You can treat a bumblebee sting with ice or a cold compress to help with the pain and swelling, as well as taking an anti-inflammatory such as aspirin or ibuprofen, or applying antihistamine cream or calamine lotion to help calm the itching.
In most instances the sting, while painful, does not have any unpleasant side effects but a small number of people can have a allergic reaction, such as developing a rash or hives across your body within a few days of the sting occurring – and you should see your doctor if this happens.
A more serious allergic response – such as an anaphylactic reaction – only occurs very rarely with a bumblebee sting, and happens far more quickly, being characterised by symptoms such as a rash appearing elsewhere on the body and swelling of the face or neck.
If that happens then you should seek medical advice as soon as possible.
If you are stung in the mouth or throat then you should also seek medical advice, as this can be dangerous due to the risk of suffocation from the throat swelling up.