Beyond the Buzz: Your Guide to Which Insects Sting

Man wearing a red plaid shirt rolled up and scratching a mosquito bite

Bzzzz — Ow! That is the soundtrack to living with insects that sting. But stinging insects are just defending their nests, albeit vigorously. They attack anyone threatening their nests, sometimes singly and sometimes in groups. Some sting once and then die, while others are equipped to sting over and over again.

Still, flying insects that sting are far easier to avoid than the bugs that bite. We’re just a nuisance to them. Mosquitoes, fleas, and ticks are looking for a blood meal, and we’re on the menu.

Flying Insects That Sting: Bees, Wasps, and Hornets

Bees, wasps, and hornets are the most common insects that sting.


In the wide world of bees, only the beloved honey bee stings once and dies. Its stingers are barbed, embedding in the skin when it stings. When it flies away, the stinger, venom sac, and related tissues are torn from the bee, which then dies. Other bees, like the bumble bee, have smooth stingers they can use repeatedly. Bees are naturally shy, typically stinging only when their nest is threatened or the bee is stepped on. You can identify a honey bee sting by the stinger left in the wound.


Another insect that stings is the wasp. Like bees, wasps are often striped with yellow and black, but unlike fuzzy little bees, their bodies and stingers are smooth. They typically nest in sheltered spaces like trees, under roofs, or underground and will repeatedly sting, defending their nests in swarms if they feel threatened. Wasps also use their stingers to immobilize other insects they prey on, like caterpillars, beetle larvae, and flies.


Hornets are among the largest, most aggressive flying insects that sting. They are a larger type of wasp that build big, rounded nests of paper pulp by chewing wood and mixing it with their saliva. They nest in tall trees, under roods, and in eves, aggressively defending their young in large, angry swarms. Like wasps, hornets can repeatedly sting to catch large insects like grasshoppers, beetles, and other wasps and bees for food.

Other Bugs That Sting to Watch Out For

There are some pretty creepy insects out there, like the Tarantula Hawk wasps, which pack a powerful punch when they sting people. Some, like the scorpion fly, certainly look like they could. But beyond bees, wasps, and hornets, the bugs that sting are ants.


Two types of true ants (not to be confused with “velvet ants” that are actually wasps) living in the United States employ painful stings to protect their nests and bring down prey. Fire ants are active throughout the southern states from Florida to California. Harvester ants thrive in the arid regions of the southwest, including Texas, Arizona, and California.

Signs of Infestation

Finding a few bees, wasps, hornets, or ants on your property is not a cause for concern. However, when you see many of the same insects, especially if they all seem to go to and from the same location, then you have a problem. You do not want any of these insects that sting nesting on your property.

A line of ants heading toward a food source almost certainly means they are taking the food back to a nest. Fire ants build nests from mounded soil, often in the lawn. Harvester ants build soil mound nests with a flattened top, surrounded by small pebbles and debris.

Wasps and hornets build large nests from papery wood pulp, often in trees or under the eves of your home.

Staying Safe: Prevention Tips

While most insect stings are merely painful, those who are allergic to them can suffer anaphylactic shock from getting stung. And those who are not allergic can become so after being stung several times. So, now that you know which insects sting, how can you protect yourself and your pets?

Clothing & Scents

Insects that sting are often attracted to bright colors and dark shades, so wear light white or beige clothing. Since loose clothing can envelop and trap an insect near your body, select fitted pieces. It’s best to wear long pants and sleeves where there are many stinging insects. Avoid sweet or floral scents, which can attract unwanted attention from insects, and be mindful that sweet foods can do the same. Consider using an insect repellent. Products containing DEET, picaridin, lemon oil, or eucalyptus oil can provide protection.

Nest Awareness

The best way to avoid being stung is to leave the nest alone. Keep pets and small children well away from insect nests. Some nests are built in the open, while others are well hidden. If you see insects repeatedly returning to the same spot, they are likely visiting a nest.

Removing a wasp nest or a large ant nest on your own is dicey. It’s best to call the pros to remove established nests to avoid getting hurt and to keep from harming other wildlife. Trust the experts at Mosquito Joe® to get rid of insects that sting and set up their homes on your property. We provide comprehensive pest control services tailored to your specific needs. The Neighborly Done Right Promise™ and our Mosquito Joe Satisfaction Guarantee back all our work, ensuring outstanding quality.

What to Do If You’re Stung

If you get stung by an insect, it is critical to remain calm and leave the area if there are other stinging insects around. Then, take the following first aid steps immediately.

Basic First Aid

First aid following an insect sting must be prompt to minimize the reaction:

  1. Remove the stinger if it remains in the wound.
  2. Clean the area with soap and water.
  3. If stung on an extremity, elevate the leg or arm.
  4. Apply ice or a cold pack for 10 to 20 minutes each hour to reduce swelling.
  5. Apply hydrocortisone cream, calamine lotion, or baking soda paste.
  6. Watch for signs of an allergic reaction, including trouble breathing or swallowing, swelling of the lips, eyelids, or throat, rapid pulse, dizziness, or a severe rash.

Get emergency medical assistance if any of these symptoms occur.

If the person stung is known to be allergic to stings, immediately administer the epinephrine pen if they have one. Get to the emergency room even if the person seems to be improving. Anaphylaxis can recur or worsen.

Insects that sting are no joke. Even if you weren’t allergic as a little kid, you can develop an allergy to stings, and anaphylaxis is deadly. If you have a nest or infestation on your property, don’t hesitate to contact Mosquito Joe. Request a free quote today for a pest inspection on your property.