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14 Things You Should Know About Being Attacked by a Swarm of Bees

Updated July 28, 2020 69k views14 items

Let's be clear about one thing: bees are cool and we definitely need them to survive. That being said, they're sometimes pretty dangerous to our health, too. Death by bee swarm has been known to occur, and when it happens, it's never pretty. You might be wondering what being swarmed by bees is like, but we don't recommend you go try it. Instead, we'll be happy to tell you, step by step, what it's like.

If you're wondering, "Can a swarm of bees kill you?" be assured that the answer is a resounding yes. In fact, many people die from bees in the United States every year. It's rare, and if you're not allergic then you'd need to to be swarmed by a ton of bees for it to happen, but it is in fact possible.

In most cases, bee swarms attack out of defense rather than some sort of malice, but that doesn't make the prospect any less frightening. So settle back and, from the safety of your own home, learn what happen when bees give you more than just honey.

  • Jumping in the Water Won't Help

    Photo: markb120 / flickr / CC-BY-NC-ND 2.0

    You might think that diving into a lake or a pool might keep the bees away from you, but this is actually a terrible plan. It's not like once you hit the water the bees give up, and you need air to live, so you're going to have to surface eventually. The bees are going to be waiting for that opportunity. They'll also know you're there, so they won't get tired and eventually go home. They'll call for reinforcements, and you'll be stuck in the water for a long time, being stung whenever you come up for air. Even the USDA warns strictly against seeking refuge in water. 

  • You May Be Stung Over 1000 Times

    Photo: skiena / flickr / CC-BY-NC-ND 2.0

    If you come across a swarm away from a hive, it usually means one thing. When a hive becomes overcrowded, a new queen can sometimes appear and take over; then a large portion from the original hive has to leave. We're talking about a queen and up to 20,000 bees just flying along in a single swarm, looking for a new home. If you get in their way, they can decide it's time for you to go down.

    People who have died from bee swarms have been found with 1,000 individual stings, and that number could be even higher. What's worse is that the more you fight back, the more stings you may get. Again, running or getting inside are really the only ways you have a chance. 

  • More Bees Will Keep Coming

    Photo: Kenn Wilson / flickr / CC-BY-NC 2.0

    Bees have a pretty cool means of communication, but that kind of bee-talk spells bad news if you're caught in a bee swarm. When bees start fighting with something, they release an alarm pheromone meant to warn other bees of danger. What this also does is rallies other fighters to their cause. That means bees in their vicinity are going to join the chase or attack. More and more bees will keep coming as the fighters begin to die, and they won't care who or what you are, just that there's something near them that needs to be destroyed. This alarm pheromone can go out almost instantly, so it's a matter of minutes before reinforcements arrive. 

  • Venom Is Going to Enter Your Blood Slowly

    Photo: theogeo / flickr / CC-BY 2.0

    So how exactly do bees inject venom into you? You're swarmed, you're being stung, and you're starting to feel pained and woozy, but why? Well, for starters, when a bee stings you, the stinger detaches from the body, killing the bee. But the venom doesn't stop injecting when the bee dies. There's a sac attached to the stinger that begins pumping you with the stuff the moment the skin is broken, but it continues doing this slowly over a period of time. That's one major reason why bee swarm stings seem to get worse as time passes.

    Unfortunately, trying to remove the stingers may make it worse. It's good to remove them, so the venom injections stop, but if you use tweezers, you can actually squeeze the sac, injecting even more of the stuff into your blood stream. Once there, the venom will spread to your heart, lungs, and other vital organ.