What Do Bee Stings Look Like?​

Different insect bites and stings are often confused with each other because the symptoms are so similar. It’s not a problem if you’re not quite sure if it was a mosquito or a gnat that bit you. It’s a big problem if you’ve been injected with venom, and can’t find the culprit anywhere.

What Does A Bee Sting Look Like

Being able to identify a bee sting can help you significantly. If you (or even a pet) have a bad or severe reaction to the sting, you’ll want to know what it was, so as to prevent future emergencies. It also makes it easier to treat it with home remedies and medication. You’ll also know what to look out for, in case your symptoms worsen. So what do bee stings look like? Before I delve into that, there’s something you ought to know.

Not All Stings Will Leave Stingers

You might be thinking that the most obvious way to tell you’ve been stung by a bee is to check if there’s a stinger in your skin and a dying bee nearby. This only applies to honeybees.

bee stinging person
A honey bee mid-sting

No other bee has a barbed stinger—the feature responsible for honeybee stingers latching onto our skin. I will cover what exactly these stingers look like, but you should know that they’re not the ‘bee’ all and end all of stings.

A bumblebee stinger

Honeybee attacks are perhaps the ones you should worry about the most. There is still a chance, though, that you could have been stung by a bee you’re unfamiliar with. Unless you see the bee that stings you, it won’t leave any clues.

How to Identify a Honeybee Stinger

Since honeybee stings are the most prominent (and in many ways the most dangerous), I’ll start with them.

Identifying honeybee stingers is fairly easy. The stinger will remain in your skin, at the site of the sting. It won’t sink into or under your skin, and should always be visible. They’re small, though, ranging from 1/16 to 1/8 of an inch. They’re black and might look like a dot, thorn, or thin spike protruding from the site.

There might also be some gooey residue, or even remains of the bee still attached to it, though the latter is unlikely.

Take note that if you have been stung by a honeybee, you must remove the stinger as quickly as you can. It injects venom into you even after the bee is gone, and the longer it stays in your skin, the more severe your symptoms will be.

What Do Bee Stings Look Like?

The appearance of your skin will depend on the severity of your reaction to it. The problem is that each person’s reaction could be different, so it’s difficult to describe exactly what a bee sting looks like.

A severe allergic reaction to a bee sting could cause many unpleasant and urgent symptoms on your body. You could develop a rash or hives, your skin might become pale or discolored, and other areas of your body could swell up.

There’s also a risk of other anaphylactic symptoms, like dizziness or nausea, difficulty breathing, or fainting. All severe symptoms should be attended to immediately, whether you know what stung you or not. Your life could be at risk.

That said, there are standard characteristics that can help you determine whether or not you’ve been stung by a bee.

The sting itself will be a small circular puncture, almost like an oversized pinprick. Although it’s small, it will be clearly visible.

bee sting symptoms

Bees only have one stinger, so it will be a single puncture (unless you’ve been stung by several bees). If you notice two punctures close together, you haven’t been stung by a bee. Chances are you’ve been bitten by a different creature, most likely a spider or other arachnid.

A welt will develop around the sting, much like they do with mosquito bites. These welts come in various shapes and sizes, but shouldn’t spread much beyond the sting site. Often, they’re round, forming exactly around the puncture. These welts are often red too, so don’t be alarmed if they’re inflamed.

Swelling is another symptom of bee stings, and as with welts, it’s difficult to give an exact description. There are only two warnings here. If the swelling spreads to or forms on other parts of your body, it’s an emergency. It should only ever be swollen in the vicinity of the sting. Likewise, if your swelling is greater than four inches, you’ll have to seek medical attention.

If your sting is mild, the symptoms should clear within two days, maximum. A moderate reaction will have the same symptoms, but they’ll last for up to a week. They’ll also be more intense. This means that you should experience moderate symptoms, the welt could be bigger or more inflamed and the swelling could be worse.

Bee Stings Versus Wasp Stings

The bad news is that unless you see what stung you, it could be impossible to tell wasp and bee stings apart. This is because wasp venom is not so different from bee venom, so the symptoms are almost exactly the same.

The worse news is that this means that if you’re allergic to one, you’re probably allergic to the other, too.

The good news is that since stings from bees and wasps are so close, you’ll treat them the same way.

Keep in mind that wasp stings hurt more than bee stings do. If you’ve ever been stung by both, you’ll know the difference.


Chances are that if a bee stings you, it won’t slip under the radar. Bee stings are quite painful, and you won’t be unaware that you’ve been stung by something. Still, it’s possible that you won’t see what hurt you, so just in case, you should learn how to tell stings apart.

There’s not much to bee stings. The sting itself could even be considered underwhelming compared to the symptoms it induces. Unless you’ve been stung by a honeybee, in particular, you might never know which bee is the culprit

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