Wood bees get their name from their unusual nesting behavior (not their feeding habits). Their nests are a collection of tunnels that they drill into wood (hence their more common name, carpenter bees). They’re solitary bees, that are fairly common around people’s homes.
They’re often confused with bumblebees because they are similar in size and appearance. They’re excellent pollinators and are found in various habitats around the world.
Do Wood Bees Sting?
Wood bees stand out when it comes to stings.
Not all of them are equipped to defend themselves. As is the case with all bees, the drones, or males, can’t sting. They might display territorial or defensive behavior, but it’s all for show.
Wood bees are not as sensitive (or willing) to attack as other bees. Females can—and will—sting if they need to, but they have to be driven to the extreme (more so than other bees) before they will lash out.
Unlike more paranoid Hymenoptera (killer bees, or wasps, for example), wood bees couldn’t be less bothered about you.
If one stings you, the reality is that you were probably asking for it; that’s how passive these little buzzers are. They only defend themselves when they are handled or mistreated, or if you directly threaten their nest.
One other thing that makes wood bees less threatening is the fact that they don’t swarm. Since they are solitary bees that live alone rather than in a colony, it’s highly unlikely that they will come for you in packs.
Don’t be mistaken, though, this doesn’t mean that wood bees can be trifled with. They are capable of stinging you repeatedly, if they so desire.
How Bad Do Wood Bee Stings Hurt?
Just because wood bees aren’t aggressive, it doesn’t mean that they never sting people. Enough wood bee stings have been recorded to weigh them up against other stinging insects.
The Schmidt Sting Pain Index was created to compare the pain inflicted by different Hymenoptera stings. Honeybees were the standard, and on a scale of 1–4 where 1 is mild and 4 is severe, they were rated a 2.
Where do wood bees fit into this?
Well, they’re below honeybees. Not because their stings hurt less, but rather because the pain doesn’t last as long. Bee sting pain can last anywhere from a few hours to days, but the initial sting is usually short-lived.
Wood bee stings are rated a 2 out of 4, and the initial pain lasts for only a few minutes. Initial honeybee sting pain endures for 10 minutes before beginning to subside. The most brutal sting (that of the bullet ant) is not only rated a 4, but it’s said to last for five hours or more.
Compared to that nightmarish scenario, wood bee stings might as well be mere booboos.
What to Do If a Wood Bee Stings You
The protocol here is not at all different from any other bee sting.
Since wood bees don’t lose their stings when they attack, you won’t have to worry about removing the stinger. Clean the sting site with soap and water and, if swelling occurs, use a cold compress.
You know now that wood bee stings don’t hurt as much as you’d expect, but if the pain persists, you are at full liberty to fight it with painkillers. The pain (and swelling) should subside regardless.
You should be concerned if you show any signs of an allergic reaction, which are not always immediately apparent. If the pain, redness or swelling spreads to other areas of your body, treat it as an emergency.
Get yourself to the emergency room as soon as possible if you experience any uncomfortable symptoms, like dizziness, trouble breathing, nausea or vomiting.
Wood bee stings are unlikely, but they shouldn’t be treated as though they are less severe. Allergic reactions are just as possible, and if one stings you, don’t ignore any telltale signs that something might be wrong.
Under ordinary circumstances, though, wood bee stings are mild and will heal with minimal attention on your part.
Wood bees aren’t only different because of their burrowing behaviors. They also stand out because, of all the bees in the world, they are, perhaps, the least likely to sting you.
That doesn’t mean they won’t though. Although their stings are mild, and only occur when they are extremely riled, they can still hurt or cause severe allergic reactions. The best thing to do is to leave them alone. They’ll be sure to return the favor.