Honeybees tend to be the focal point for bees, but there are thousands of other species that deserve our attention. I want to give sweat bees some attention. They are fairly common and are known to tend to land on us.
This intrusion into personal space is, at best, uncomfortable and dangerous for allergy sufferers. So how do you protect yourself from sweat bees when they roost on you? Are sweat bee stings as serious as other bee stings? Here’s what you should know.
Do Sweat Bees Sting?
Sweat bees can sting you, but if you don’t know what a sweat bee is, it doesn’t help that much. If you want to protect yourself from them, you must learn to recognize them.
Identifying Sweat Bees
“Sweat bee” is actually a generic name for a family of honey bees (Halictidae). They are the most widely distributed bees after the honey bee and are found all over the world.
They are small, only half an inch long. Sweat bees can be gregarious or solitary, depending on the species, but they usually nest underground.
It shouldn’t be difficult to find them, since they are defined by the metallic body. They are usually black or green, but can also range from blue to purple. Sweat bees are not as vague as other bees and are often mistaken for flies (or flies are mistaken for sweat bees).
To clarify, hoverflies are not sweat bees. They’re not even related to Hymenoptera, the order Hymenoptera (the order to which bees belong).
Why Do Sweat Bees Sit On Us?
As mentioned earlier, sweat bees have a habit of sitting on us—an unusual feature of bees. This quirk of theirs makes them potentially dangerous. Owning a piece of land on you greatly increases your risk of being stung.
How did they get so far? The answer is in their names.
Sweat bees feed on our sweat. However, it’s not as bad as it sounds. In reality, they just want the salt in our sweat.
Sweat bees eat nectar and pollen like other bees, but they’re attracted to our sweat because it’s an easy (and rich) source of the minerals they need.
They don’t try to scare you or hurt you when they get close. They just forage like bees forage for flowers. Regardless of their intentions, sometimes humans and sweat bees just don’t get along.
So What Happens When They Sting You? Should You Be Worried?
How Bad Is A Sweat Bee Sting?
Usually, lightly brushing the sweat off the skin is enough. It won’t hurt and will likely take off, leaving you alone. However, if you are not gentle and intentionally hurt, poke, squeeze, and squeeze the sweat bee, it will retaliate.
Since sweat bees are common, it is very likely that you will be stung by sweat bees. However, under normal circumstances, you shouldn’t worry too much about them.
On the Schmidt Sting Scale, a bee sting is rated 1.0, with 1 being the least painful. For reference, bee stings are rated 2: twice as painful.
Remember, this is only compared to other stitches. Just because it’s been given the lowest score doesn’t mean it won’t hurt if you get stabbed.
Also remember that pain and severity are two different things. Stings for people with allergies can be far more dangerous and should be treated with a sense of urgency. An allergic reaction to a sweat bee sting is different from other bee stings, and treatment is limited.
How Do You Treat A Bee Sweat Sting?
Unless being stung is an emergency (in which case you should seek immediate medical attention), it’s best to stay calm. Sweat bees don’t leave stingers, so you don’t have to remember to remove them.
Clean the affected area with soap and water, and place an ice pack over it to reduce inflammation or swelling. If pain persists, consider taking pain medication.
Allergic reactions may not appear immediately. If the swelling or pain spreads to other parts of your body, or if you feel dizzy, nauseated, or short of breath, go to the emergency room right away.
Sweat bees are less of a threat to us than bees or other stinging insects, but they can (and will) sting you if you disturb them. When one lands on you, the best thing you can do is gently sweep it away. As long as it doesn’t feel threatened, it should leave you alone.
If you do get stung, don’t panic. Sweat bee stings are mild. If you don’t have allergies, you don’t need to worry.