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10 Tips to Avoid Bee Stings

How to Keep Bees, Wasps, and Hornets from Stinging

By

Honey bee.

Honey bee.

Photo: © Whitney Cranshaw, Colorado State University, Bugwood.org

Being stung by a bee or wasp is never fun, and for those with bee sting allergies it can be downright deadly. Fortunately, most bee stings are entirely avoidable. Bees, wasps, and hornets sting primarily to defend themselves, so the key to avoiding bee stings is to make sure the bees don't feel threatened by you.

1. Don't wear perfumes or colognes.
In other words, don't smell like a flower. Bees can detect and follow strong scents, and wearing perfumes or colognes will attract nectar-seeking bees and wasps from a distance. Once they find the source of the flower smell (you), they're likely to investigate by landing on you or buzzing around your body.

2. Avoid wearing brightly colored clothing, especially floral prints.
This goes along with #1 – don't look like a flower, either. There's a reason beekeepers wear white. If you're wearing bright colors, you are just asking bees to land on you. Keep your outdoor wear limited to khaki, white, beige, or other light colors if you don't want to attract bees.

3. Be careful what you eat outdoors.
Sugary foods and drinks will attract bees and wasps for sure. Before you take a sip of your soda, look inside the can or glass and make sure a wasp hasn't gone in for a taste. Fruits also attract the stinging crowd, so pay attention when snacking on ripe fruits outdoors. Don't leave your peach pits or orange peels sitting around.

4. Don't walk barefoot.
Bees may nectar on clover blossoms and other small flowers in your lawn, and some wasps make their nests in the ground. If you step on or near a bee, it's going to try to protect itself and sting you. But if you're wearing shoes, it's only going to hurt itself, not you.

5. Try not to wear loose-fitting clothes.
Bees and wasps might just find their way up your pant leg or into your shirt if you give them an easy opening. Once inside, they will be trapped against your skin. And what's your first impulse when you feel something crawling around inside your clothing? You slap at it, right? That's a recipe for disaster. Opt for clothing with tighter cuffs, and keep baggy shirts tucked in.

6. Stay still.
If you're afraid of bees and wasps, this may sound as reasonable as eating Jello® with chopsticks. But the worst thing you can do when a wasp flies around your head is swat at it. What would you do if someone took a swing at you? If a bee, wasp, or hornet comes near you, just take a deep breath and stay calm. It's just trying to determine if you are a flower or some other item useful to it, and once it realizes you're just a person, it will fly away.

7. Keep your car windows rolled up.
Bees and wasps have an uncanny knack for getting themselves trapped in cars, where they will buzz around in a panic trying to find a way out. If you're driving the car at the time, this can certainly be a bit unsettling. But wasps and bees can't get inside a car that's closed up, so keep the windows rolled up whenever possible. If you do find yourself giving a ride to an unwanted stinging insect, pull over when it's safe to do so and roll your windows down. Don't try to swat at it while you are driving!

8. Rinse your garbage and recycling cans and keep lids on them.
Wasps love empty soda and beer bottles, and will check out any food waste in your garbage, too. Don't let food residue build up on your garbage cans. Rinse them well now and then, and always put tight-fitting lids on them to keep wasps away from your garbage. This can substantially cut down on the number of wasps hanging around your yard.

9. Don't hang out in the flower garden.
The chances of being stung while admiring the flowers are small, but if you're really worried about bee stings, don't hang out where the bees are most numerous. Bees spend most of their time and energy collecting nectar and pollen from flowers. Don't get in their way. If you're dead heading flowers or gathering them for an arrangement, keep an eye out for bees and wait until they've moved on to another flower.

10. Call a professional to have unwanted bees, wasps, or hornets removed.
Nothing makes a stinging insect angrier than when someone disturbs or destroys its home. Professional beekeepers or pest control experts can remove wasp or hornet nests or bee swarms safely, without putting you at risk for stings.

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