Stinging insects

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Stinging insects

Insect stings are uncomfortable and can often be distressing particularly if you get stung several times. 

However, you can reduce the risk of being stung by getting rid of a wasp nest in or near your home, with the assistance of a pest control professional, whilst also taking some basic precautions when outdoors. 

If you have any questions or queries relating to stinging insects or would like to setup a inspection with a Rentokil Initial technician, please contact us online or call 400 820 8770.

Insect stings vs insect bites

Insect stings should not be confused with insect bites. 

Stinging insects such as wasps, hornets and bees, will only sting you as an act of defense or when they believe you pose a threat to the colony or nest. 

When it comes to stinging insects, only the females can sting. When a wasp stings she injects venom into or under your skin. This has an immediate effect causing a sharp, burning sensation. The same can be said for both hornets and bees. 

It is the venom that people are allergic to rather than the stinging insects themselves. 

While wasps and hornets sting to defend themselves, biting insects (such as bed bugs) attack to feed on your blood. To give the insect time to feed, insect bites have evolved so that the pain is not as sharp as a sting (although the bite of a Horse fly is very painful), leaving the insect unnoticed whilst feeding upon you.

Wasp stings

Out of all the stinging insects, wasps are the most aggressive. They can sting you with little provocation. 

However wasps won’t go out of their way to sting you. They will only sting if you either go too close to their nest, or you agitate them in some way.

Wasp sting treatment

The most common sting suffered from an insect is a wasp sting. These aggressive creatures have stung a fair share of people multiple times. 

Wasp sting symptoms 

  • swelling to the site of the sting lasting more than 24hr 
  • sharp burning pain 
  • itchiness 
  • visible welt where stinger punctured skin 

How to treat a wasp sting 

Clean the area with soap and water to remove the venom Apply ice pack to sting to reduce the swelling Take an antihistamine

Allergic reaction to wasp stings

Severe allergic reactions to wasp stings are referred to as “anaphylaxis”. Anaphylaxis occurs as a response to wasp venom, and happens very quickly. 

Symptoms of an allergic reaction to a wasp sting 

  • Swelling of face, lips or throat 
  • Hives or itching areas of the body not affected by sting 
  • Wheezing 
  • Dizziness 
  • Sudden drop in blood pressure 
  • Lightheadedness 
  • Loss of consciousness 
  • Nausea 
  • Stomach Cramps 
  • Weak or racing pulse

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Hornet stings

Compared to wasps, hornets are quite timid. They will only sting if their nest is threatened. However a hornet's venom is much more powerful than that of a wasps, resulting in a much more painful sting.

Hornet sting treatment

Although hornets are a form of wasp, they produce a more painful sting than their cousins. 

Hornet sting symptoms

  • a sharp, hot immediate pain 
  • a large local reaction - redness to the skin, itchiness 
  • swelling 
  • burning sensation 

How to treat a hornet sting 

Clean the area immediately using warm water and soap. This will help remove any venom left on the affected area.
Apply an ice pack to the area to help reduce the swelling.
Calamine lotion can also be applied to cool the wounded area and help relieve the itch.
If the itching is severe, consult your pharmacist about steroid creams.

Allergic reaction to hornet stings

Hornets produce the most painful insect stings and thus a more severe allergic reaction. 

Symptoms of an allergic reaction to a hornet sting 

  • Pain 
  • Itching 
  • Dysperia 
  • Coughing 
  • Wheezing 
  • Dizziness 
  • Hypotension 
  • Vomiting 
  • Diarrhea 

If you have any of the above symptoms within 30 minutes from a bee, wasp or hornet sting then call an ambulance immediately as you could go into anaphylactic shock

Bee stings

Bees are much less likely to sting you. The most common reason for stinging is being sat or stood on. The key sign of a bee sting is a small stinger lodged inside the skin.

Do bees die after they sting?

Yes - a bee’s stinger is barbed, causing it to get stuck in your skin. As the bee tries to fly away it inevitable rips its stinger from its abdomen, this is what causes the bee to die. This leaves the stinger and the venom sack trapped in your skin, the venomous sac will continue to pump venom for more than a minute. Find out how to remove a bee stinger. 

Once stung by a bee, the area around the sting will quickly redden and a raised weal (fluid under the skin) will form. The weal will reduce after a few hours, but it may remain itchy for more than a day.

Bee sting treatment

Getting stung by a bee can be quite painful, especially if you have a bee sting allergy. Unlike wasps and hornets, bees die after stinging. 

Bee sting symptoms

  • instant, sharp burning pain 
  • red welt around the area 
  • a small, white spot where stinger punctured the skin stinger present in affected area 

How to treat a bee sting

Remove stinger promptly using long fingernails or tweezers
Be careful not to squeeze the sting sac as this will inject more venom into your body
Wash the infected area with warm water and soap
Apply ice to the infected area to help reduce swelling
Take a antihistamine if necessary.

Allergic reaction to bee stings

If you think you could be allergic to bee stings view the following symptoms below. 

Symptoms of an allergic reaction to a bee sting 

  • Swelling around the throat, mouth or tongue 
  • Difficulty breathing 
  • Breakout of hives 
  • A weak, rapid pulse 
  • Nausea, vomiting or diarrhea 
  • Dizziness or fainting 
  • Loss of consciousness

Preventing insect stings

If you know you are sensitive to wasp stings, you should take care to minimise the risk of being stung. There are practical steps that we can all take to avoid stings. 

To avoid wasp stings when outdoors you should: 

Avoid wearing bright colours and strong scents such as perfumes and deodorants as these attract insects
Wear long sleeves, trousers, footwear or hats to reduce exposed skin Use insect repellent sprays on exposed skin
Use insect repelling products or candles
Avoid leaving sweet drinks and foods exposed
Look out for bees before sitting, lying or resting
Avoid areas where wasps cluster such as orchards
Wear gloves if picking fallen fruit from the ground

Never try to swat wasps or bees. This will increase the likelihood of them stinging you and may excite a swarm. 

Do not wave your arms and try not to panic as this will also excite the insect. If you enter an area with many stinging insects, walk calmly and slowly away to avoid wasp stings.

Allergic reaction to stings

Some people are much more sensitive to hornet and wasp stings than others, although young children tend to be particularly sensitive. 

However, the key group at risk are the three percent of the population who suffer from an allergic reaction to bee stings. 

An allergic reaction to wasp stings can develop at any time, even if they have not reacted to a previous sting. 

For those who suffer from a more moderate allergic reaction to bee stings, there may be more general swelling around the wound. Consult your doctor if the swelling is severe or persistent. 

Those stung by a wasp or bee on two or more occasions in previous years are at higher risk of developing an allergy. Generally those who suffer large local reaction to insect stings continue to have similar reactions to subsequent stings.


Anaphylaxis is a serious, potentially life-threatening allergic response to a hornet, wasp or bee sting. Signs pointing towards bee sting anaphylaxis include swelling, hives and lowered blood pressure. In severe cases, a person will go into shock. 

Anaphylaxis can cause some people to go into anaphylactic shock. Its the anaphylactic shock caused by a wasp, hornet, or bee sting that can be very fatal, sometimes causing death. If you think you are, or know someone who is, going into anaphylactic shock seek emergency medical attention immediately.

Stinging insects in home or garden

A wasp trapped indoors can be dealt with using a Wasp & Fly Killer spray. 

However, bees are beneficial to the environment and are protected so should not be killed. 

If there are high numbers of wasps or bees in your home or garden, it is likely there is a nest nearby. 

It is important to deal with wasps nests as early as possible – wasps become more aggressive in late summer and it is much safer to deal with them earlier in the year. 

In the case of a Bees nest you should contact a Bee keeper or Bee Keepers Association to have an experienced person re-locate the nest for you rather than harming the Bees. 

Find out more in our wasps and bees section or call us for more advice on 400 820 8770.