Anyone been stung by honeybees on your plants?

rdbrya2June 16, 2014

Hi everyone! I am getting some landscaping installed this week and I'm very excited. However, I am beyond terrified of bees. I know they are very necessary for pollenation but I cannot express how deathly afraid of them I am. Everyone keeps telling me they will never sting me but I know I've heard of people being stung before. I truly wish I could get over this fear. I really hate that I literally can't/won't go outside during the summer due to this ridiculous fear :-(
If anyone has any experience of stinging, etc or what to do to be sure i do not intimidate them to want to fly near me I'd love to hear it.

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Michaela .:. thegarden@902 .:. (Zone 5b - Iowa)

I've never been stung by bees, only wasps. And in the wasp's defense, I accidentally grabbed it. I've found that the bees in my garden completely leave me alone. Last summer I had sedum that was covered completely in bees, you couldn't even see the blooms, and none of them messed with me at all.

I wouldn't worry too much about the honehbees.

    Bookmark   June 16, 2014 at 10:07PM
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I've been pulling weeds and stuff right on plants buzzing with bees(my whole life) and they have never once touched me.

    Bookmark   June 16, 2014 at 10:14PM
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Unless you jump up and down and scream and slap at them they won't sting you. I work all around them with no problem. I've only been stung when I stepped on one while walking barefoot.

    Bookmark   June 16, 2014 at 10:30PM
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Since rhizo said it, I guess I don't need to be circumspect
We're trying to be comforting, but you already know your phobia isn't going to be cured by reassurances about how nice bees are.
If that were the case you'd be reassured, because clearly, you really do not enjoy your distress. and love the outdoors That will be your motivation, and more power to you!
In several sessions with a therapist specializing in cognitive "reframing" helped my husband learn to manage a late developing but disabling anxiety about driving in certain situations.
This kind of help is time limited and problem focused. You won't spend a fortune in time or money
I hope you soon will be out in the garden.

This post was edited by idabean on Tue, Jun 17, 14 at 14:03

    Bookmark   June 16, 2014 at 10:59PM
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Ispahan Zone6a Chicago

I have never had a problem with honeybees or bumblebees, even with hundreds of them in my garden on a good day. I have only ever been stung by wasps, but only because I accidentally grabbed them (they do a much better job at hiding than the bees).

    Bookmark   June 16, 2014 at 11:09PM
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rhizo_1 (North AL) zone 7

In my many years of gardening, beginning as a child to my sixties, I have never been stung by a bee. I've picked flowers that they are on, I've nudged them gently with my hand, I've worked with bees buzzing all around me.

Phobias are quite easy to overcome, with a little bit of time spent with a good professional who specializes in phobias. Within three sessions and some work on my own, I overcame a crippling fear of heights. And I mean it was terrible!

The fear is irrational and you know it. You should be pretty easy to cure!

    Bookmark   June 16, 2014 at 11:12PM
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I was stung last summer for the first time that I can remember (assuming I must have been stung as a child at some point:) and it was my fault. I was picking my raspberries and was NOT paying any attention, just grabbed at one and pulled. It didn't come away like they do and squeezed down... it was a bee:( Poor guy, I fared better then he did of course). It really only hurt a bit for the day, by next day it was like it never happened. I've had wasps sting and that hurts more and for a lot longer.
They do not sting unless you really do threaten (or grab) them because they die after they sting. I (carefully now) pick raspberries all the time, while the bees are all around the canes in the raspberry blossoms. I walk past and around them, never stung. It's hard to get over a real fear, perhaps go about it slowly. Stand a little ways away from a busy bunch of them for a time, then move in a little closer, then closer still. You'll soon see they just go about their business and don't even care that you are in their midst. (just don't squeeze one, they really don't like that:)

    Bookmark   June 17, 2014 at 6:12AM
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I've been gardening for over 30 years and I have never been stung by a honeybee. I have been stung by wasps twice, but once, it was because I sat on one and the second time I put my foot inside a boot where there was a wasp.
I used to me amazed when working in my herb gardens at how many honey bees there were. The air buzzed with their presence. I would snip, cut, gather plants, weed, water, dig, etc. and never had an incident. Bees collecting food are very busy animals and have little interest in anything but their job.

    Bookmark   June 17, 2014 at 9:33AM
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princessgrace79(8 PNW)

We have lots of bees here and in 7 years I have never been stung. The only one that has been stung is my three year old and thats from running barefoot and stepping on a bee in the grass clover. So, just make sure to wear shoes!

    Bookmark   June 17, 2014 at 11:54AM
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ken_adrian Adrian MI cold Z5

the only time i have been stung.. is

1: walking thru clover and stepping on one .. actually it was a kiddo without shoes ... she paid attention for such afterwards ...

2: ground bees.. which if i had been paying attention.. i would have heard and seen ... and that is really the basis ...

just do it.. and pay attention to your surroundings ....

and try not to smell better than your garden.. lol ... avoid any scent while out there... in the olden days.. it was hairsprays.. that i swear would bring them from miles around... this would include deodorants... hair shampoos/conditioners ... and perfumes ... you shower after being in the garden.. you dont go getting yourself all prettied up.. and smelling like some giant flower.. and then complain you are attracting bugs.. eh???

and if one or two should be where you want to work.. go work somewhere else ... and come back in a few hours.. or days .. if some spectacular bee attractant flower is in bloom.. then maybe that isnt the day to be messing with it ... but if there is some emergency regarding said plant.. bees go back to the hive at night.. so work on it near dusk ...

and be ready.. for hummingbirds ... lol .;. i used to have a bright orange hat... and the darn hummers... would buzz me.. and early in the season ... before the hordes came to town.. and they werent in mind.. i would think some ginormous bee was buzzing my head ... and then i would recall its hummer time.. and the rest of the year would be fine ... so color is also an attractant ...

my point is not to scare you more.. its simply.. to be aware of all variables .. and to just get out there ... gardening is too much fun.. to get bogged down by fear ...

you might want to find out.. if there is any local garden club ... its a great way to start out ... though many of the clubs are waning away ... and its a great way.. to get free plants ... trading and all ...


ps: mom would bring over some friends... the red hat nuts.. lol ... and one of them would have some derivation of a beehive hairdo ... go figure on that... 40 pound of aquanet ... and sooner or later.. we would all be standing there.. watching the bees attracted to the hairspray .. of course.. she was also the one that put on 50 gallons of the most stinky overbearing perfume ... it was just all downhill for her.. from there... lol and she would be the one.. that came on a hardcore garden tour.. in heeled open toed sandals... what was that all about ... i mean really ... did you come to look at flowers.. or troll for old men??? crikey.. but i digress .... ya think????

    Bookmark   June 17, 2014 at 12:02PM
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A honey bee won't sting unless it feels its queen is threatened. If it stings, it will die so it takes a lot for it to want to sting you. Different story with wasps - especially Yellow Jackets. They will sting just for the fun of it --- and they can do it over and over.

If I am wrong about this, please tell me.

    Bookmark   June 17, 2014 at 3:42PM
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molanic(Zone 5 IL)

When I thought about it I guess I have never been stung by a bee, only wasps and quite a few times. Don't have any fear or hate of them though. I can understand when people are allergic and try to avoid bees, otherwise I think being fearful is worse than the actual pain of a sting.

Two of the times I was stung by a wasp was because someone near me was fearful and starting freaking out and swatted the now angry wasp right into me. Once was when in was 3 or 4 at a playground inside an enclosure and other kids started flipping out screaming and hitting at it. I got stung on my eyelid and it was swollen shut for quite a while. That was one of my most vivid early memories!

I was always taught that when a bee or wasp it on you to just be calm and either gently remove it or keep track of it until it flies away so you don't hurt it. I think the only exception would be if you disturb a wasps nest and they swarm you, then you want to just get away ASAP I think.

Like stated already too, if you don't like them hovering around you try not to look or smell like a flower.

I have a raspberry patch like Christripp and right now there is so much pollinating going on the whole patch sounds like a bee hive! I like to look at all the different species of bees, wasps, and others in there. I also like to photograph them when I get a chance and get the lens less than in inch away from them. They couldn't care less that I am there. When you take time to observe them and see them up close they are quite beautiful.

    Bookmark   June 17, 2014 at 4:45PM
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Thyme2dig NH Zone 5

Molanic brings up an interesting thought as someone else did above. Maybe get as close to them as you comfortably can, and sit quietly and observe them. You might find that you may get a better "understanding" of our garden good-guys. The more you learn about them and observe them, maybe in time you'll find you enjoy their sounds and the good work they do in the garden.

I've always found it amazing when working in the garden and I brush past a plant loaded with bees that they just leave and go to a different plant. They never seem to get agitated, but rather move on and go about their business.

Best of luck with whatever approach you take to conquer your fear. This is a great start just asking for other gardener's experiences with them.

    Bookmark   June 17, 2014 at 6:02PM
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a2zmom(6a - nj)

Never been stung and I work right next to them all the time. I deadhead while my bees are happily checking out the flower on the next stalk. We happily coexist.

    Bookmark   June 17, 2014 at 6:28PM
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Point of fact, I think I scare them with the camera...they disappear when I try to get shots of flowers loaded with bees...darn it :)

    Bookmark   June 17, 2014 at 6:38PM
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rhizo_1 (North AL) zone 7

Are you still with us, rdrya2? I hope that you've been convinced that there's great hope for you and that you've the opportunity to have great joy in the beautiful outdoors for the rest of your life.

Be smart and get some deserve it. (My life changed forever when I got help; I waited until college.)

    Bookmark   June 17, 2014 at 7:12PM
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prairiemoon2 z6 MA

I haven't been stung in 25 years of gardening either. I love Bumble Bees because they are so docile. Wasps I keep my eye on and give them a wide berth.

I remember before I was a gardener, seeing a movie that took place in the South and one of the characters picked flowers to sell at market and he would be picking the flowers in a field with tons and tons of bees flying around his head and hands and seemed not to notice at all. Seeing that scene, I hadn't realized how close you could be to them without a problem. It was a revelation.

    Bookmark   June 17, 2014 at 7:58PM
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davidrt28 (zone 7)

I have not been stung by a honeybee or bumblebee in over 20 years of gardening. I have been chased over 30 ft. by a European hornet though, and still stung. In the back of the felt like what I imagine a hammer blow must feel like. Here is my list of insect aggression, starting at worst:

yellowjackets (a type of wasp)
European hornets

These two are thugs, it's a toss up as to which is more awful. Search my prior posts for a good way to get rid of the non-native European hornets (only in the US, of course, Europeans, I forbid you)

and...HORSE FLIES! (ok, they don't sting, but they are completely evil and will chase you. I swear, I think mine have learned to avoid me if I'm carrying my electric tennis-racquet sized swatter!)

bald-faced hornet (actually another wasp - they eat yellowjackets, at least) They will give you a quick sporting chase sometimes, just for fun of watching the stupid scared mammal run I guess, but I've never had one sting me

mild aggression:
bumble bee (a few get a bad attitude though)
honeybee (rarely seen these days of course, although I get a few once in a while as I'm not far from agricultural areas)
most wasps, some are especially pragmatic and reasonable seeming creatures, like mud daubers
cicada killers

(great quote about the last: " "I've done abominable things to these animals, and I've never had one try to sting me")

    Bookmark   June 18, 2014 at 5:12AM
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laceyvail(6A, WV)

Stepped on a bee once when I was a child and barefoot and got stung. Almost 50 years of gardening and working around bees and never been stung. Right now huge areas of ground cover thymes are in bloom all around the gardens and in the paths and are alive with bees. I walk the areas in sandals--never been stung.

    Bookmark   June 18, 2014 at 7:08AM
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I'm still here, I was out of town for 3 days so I just read all these responses!! Thanks so much everyone!! I am definitely comforted to know they will not harm me, although like mentioned here, that is obviously not going to stop my fear. I think I may call a counseling type place that specializes in fears or phobias this week. I had certainly considered it before but thought there is just absolutely no way on earth they could cure me of being scared of bees. It is not just bees, I may be a LITTLE CRUMBY bit less afraid of bees especially after reading this, however wasp and yellow jackets put me in near anxiety attack mode, it is really, really bad :-(

    Bookmark   June 20, 2014 at 3:39PM
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SnailLover(5a MI)

I got stung by one as a kid - put my hand on a baseball and there was a honeybee hovering over it. I got an allergic reaction and as a result developed a phobia of them. Never got stung by one again until many years later as an adult, but this time no reaction. Since realizing they aren't aggressive and learning how fascinating they are, I am no longer afraid of them. Even bumblebees, which swarm my barberry bushes when I'm filling the birdfeeder, don't bother me at all now. I do keep Benadryl on hand just in case. As mentioned, yellow jackets, deer flies, hornets are far more aggressive. I hate those things.

It wouldn't hurt to try the counseling. I would also suggest researching them, watching some Youtube videos, and observing them from a safe distance. Learning about them, especially their recent plight of declining numbers, has made me quite sympathetic of them. Even spiders which creep me out, I'm learning to tolerate the more I learn about them. Good luck!

    Bookmark   June 20, 2014 at 7:10PM
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terrene(5b MA)

Rdbrya, good luck with your phobia. Fear of insects such as spiders or bees is common; I think this fear is partly instinctual as there are insects that have threatened human health for many millenia. However, this fear must be tempered by the rational mind and understanding of the natural behavior of these species.

In my experience bees and other pollinators are not aggressive when they are pollinating flowers. Regularly I garden in the midst of profuse flowering plants and hundreds of individual pollinators, and have never been stung. Even Yellow jackets, which are the most aggressive northern bee/wasp species, are docile when they are pollinating.

However, I am stung nearly every year by Yellow jackets when I inadvertantly get near their nest sites (mowing, weeding, clearing invasive plants), which they defend very aggressively. Or occasionally get stung by a bumblebee when accidentally stepping one while it is pollinating some clover or something.

I find it's best to avoid their nest sites, or if you do accidentally stumble across one, to remain as calm as possible! Easier said than done... 8-P

This post was edited by terrene on Fri, Jun 20, 14 at 20:23

    Bookmark   June 20, 2014 at 7:51PM
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Campanula UK Z8

Hi - another long-term gardener and bee-phobic here (and wasps...and even things which look like bees or wasps). I have run away from my 10 year old daughter as she was being stung on the knee.....I have thrown my 2 year old to the ground when a bee landed on his shoulder.......I came across a swarm of some bee-like creatures in our local cemetary - I had to crouch down, pull my T.shirt over my head and be guided home by my (now) adult yes, I know the score.
However, competing with this anxiety is a desperate love of gardens and plants.....which alone has actually enabled me to go outside in summer (after a childhood of missing picnics and day outs). Last year, I was stung twice...after a 14 year absence of stinging or bee encounters (I never get caught in a confined space). My daughter actually keep bees on our property - alleviation is possible if never entirely feeling relaxed. The stinging, by the way, was fairly minimal - they had done it before I saw them so had only a momentary pain instead of ramping terror before an encounter......and what's more, de-sensitisation does actually happen over years. What used to be a disabling terror is now a mild and slightly embarrassing nuisance which no longer controls my life.....although there would be fainting and screaming if a bee actually landed on me.....but in fact, it is quite possible to go for decades without ever having a bee or wasp anywhere threatening.
We can learn to live with these terrors although I cannot see that it is ever going to vanish completely, start small and work up - I could not even turn a page in a book which had an illustration of a bee or wasp on it! 2 massive fears or obsessions can cancel each other out - bees.....and gardening, to an extent.
With you in bee fear, SuzyXX

    Bookmark   June 21, 2014 at 5:18AM
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a2zmom(6a - nj)

I have run away from my 10 year old daughter as she was being stung on the knee

I must be an awful person, because that made me laugh.

Although I have no fear of bees, if anyone wanted to give me a fatal heart attack, just put a cockroach on me. I would drop dead, I kid you not. I grew up in an apartment in NYC and I lived in fear of those nasty things.

    Bookmark   June 21, 2014 at 8:10AM
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I can't recall the last time I was stung by a honeybee (never found them at all aggressive) and never by a bumblebee.

Wasps can be bad-tempered and attack without cause, and yellow jackets are the worst. Nests of both get bombed with bee-killer, with no regrets.

    Bookmark   June 21, 2014 at 1:49PM
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buyorsell888(Zone 8 Portland OR)

I am allergic to bee and wasp stings but have been a gardener for decades. I have never been stung by a honeybee or bumblebee. My yard is full of them on the flowers and they drink in my ponds. I have been stung by yellowjackets and they were because I accidentally grabbed one on a faucet, stepped into a ground nest and had one on my back when I sat back on a chair. Not just casually gardening.

    Bookmark   June 21, 2014 at 2:33PM
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Oh my gosh Suzy I can't stop laughing..but only because this is 10000% me!! I won't even tell the stories of running away from my kids so many times...I will feel like too bad of a parent. When my son gets off the bus he comes to the side door...once there was a wasp near the door so I would not open it for him to come in :-( Once I was walking outside my work building and I heard a slight buzzing near my ear and I went into full panic mode like you would not believe. A stranger actually ran up to me beacuse he thought I was having a stroke.

I DO think I can MAYBE just MAYBE get over the honeybee fear. As it truly sounds like they will leave me alone. But the wasps and yellow jackets are still going to scare the living daylights out of me to the point I do not even want to be outside. As it is I make my husband spray pesticide and literally check every corner of my house every single week, sometimes more, to make sure there are no wasp nest anywhere. That has made it so that I can at least sit on my back patio comfortably for a little while without seeing one. I say comfortably although its anything but such because I am still always on gaurd. It is a whole nother ballgame when I go to someone else's house or public place that does not keep their places clean or kill nests often. That is when it gets really, really bad for me, I can hardly function. I would be willing to pay any amount in the world to rid my house/pool/plants of wasps and yellow jackets, but believe me I've called every place around here and googled every solution imaginable and since they are airborne there is just no way possible to do that.

    Bookmark   June 22, 2014 at 12:01AM
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Yes Suzy you are right, I have not been stung in probably 20 years that is the crazy thing. I was stung once or twice as a kid but don't recall it being a major deal. Exactly like you said, I absolutely do not get caught in confined spaces. My husband used to leave the windows down in his truck when he wasn't in it to keep it cooler and I would refuse to even get in the vehicle because a wasp may have flown in it. Heaven forbid I end up with a wasp in my car while I'm driving and I shudder think of the outcome.

The other solution I thought of was to do all my plant stuff very early morning or very late evening - 7pm or later since the wasp typically aren't out at those times.

    Bookmark   June 22, 2014 at 12:07AM
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docmom_gw Zone 5 MI(5)

It certainly sounds like your phobia is having a huge impact on your life. I would strongly urge you to see a therapist sooner than later. Especially given your habit of spraying pesticides to rid your surroundings of any possible flying insect. These creatures are actually critical to our survival and are in dangerous decline. So, mostly for your own good and comfort, but also for the rest of us, please find help. It would truly be such a relief for you, and you would benefit for the rest of your life.


    Bookmark   June 22, 2014 at 9:22AM
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Campanula UK Z8

I was in a car with a friend when a bee (or wasp, I never actually saw it) flew in the window, up the leg of his (baggy) shorts and stung him in those tender man-parts....but guess who was shrieking and hyperventilating by the side of the road? And even when his knackers swelled to grapefruit size, I was still making far more fuss.

Still, it is quite true - help is possible (although I tell ya, the therapy lark was a dismal fail for me)......gardening though...... Out of the blue, my daughter (the same bee-stung one - she still loves me) cleared up our naked, muddy puppy ridden yard one day (we had many lurchers) and, in celebration we planted a lavatera. Obviously, as all gardeners know and I had yet to find out, lavatera grows like the clappers....but still, I thought I was a tremendous success (although was, at that point, less amused with the delighted bees)....and obviously had green fingers. Next plant - a japanese anemone - again, by sheer luck (I liked the name) I picked another winner....and an obsession was born. A totally overwhelming desitre to get to know plants (I enrolled for horticulture college quicksmart - 4 years!). Now seeing bees going about their business, on our plants (where they vastly prefer to hang out rather than on our arms and legs), over the last decade, has undeniably got a whole lot easier (although I am, of course, watching at a respectable distance and making sure I have a clear exit).........and as an avid fruit grower, I certainly have a vested interest in their continued health and survival - see what I mean about cancelling each other out....because whilst I fear these creatures, I also admire and depend on them so could not countenance spraying (although I have not the slightest compunction about spraying nettles out of all existence with some lethal broadleaf killer agent orange napalm death........)
So while I never expect to get up close and personal to a bee, the sheer number of times I encounter them really does diminish that visceral anxiety because a lot of the time, I am tortured by anticipation and imagination.....actually being near but feeling safe has been the best therapy I have ever first of all, get involved in the garden.....might be what you need to break the cycle (yeah, I know all that facing one's fear blah blah......but it works if the rewards (a really great hobby and being able to be outside in the garden) are enough to make the effort.

    Bookmark   June 22, 2014 at 6:09PM
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