What Happens to Your Body When You Die from a Bee Sting

In general, bees are our friends. They make honey, they pollinate flowers, and we depend on them to grow our food. Of course, it's hard to remember all that when you're dying from a bee sting, isn't it? More than 50 people die every year in the United States alone from bee stings, usually as a result of an allergic reaction. On rare occasions, however, it's simply a massive bee attack that kills even someone not allergic. Perhaps you're wondering what dying from a bee sting is like? Well, we're about to find out.

The average person gets stung by a bee at least once or twice in their lifetime. If you have, you can surely remember how painful it was, and how much it sucked getting the stinger out. Well, imagine that you have a bunch of those stingers all over your body, and meanwhile your body is literally dying around you. That one little sting doesn't seem so bad now, does it?

If you still want to find out, step by step, just what dying from bees is like, then get ready for the grisly details. Spoiler alert: it's really, really painful.

  • Either You Have to Be Allergic, or There's Got to Be a TON of Bees

    There are two distinct ways in which bees can kill you: either by allergic reaction, which can appear at pretty much any time without warning, or by sheer number of bees. The more common scenario is allergic reaction. 

    Although only about 3.3 percent of the population is seriously allergic to bees, many people do have minor reactions: swelling of the area, a little itchiness, and pain around the site of the sting. This is because bee stings actually contain a toxin, and our bodies all deal with that toxin a little differently. People who have this normal range of reaction won't die from a single sting, even if the experience sucks, but they could be killed by a massive swarm. But let's assume you're the rare person who is genuinely allergic to bees. What's your outlook then?

  • You're Going to Feel Pain

    You're going about your day, not worrying about anything, when suddenly you feel a sharp sting somewhere on your body. You check to see what just happened, see a stinger still sticking out of your skin, and realize you were stung by a bee. As pretty much everyone does, you'll feel an aching and stinging pain at the site of the puncture - partly due to the puncture itself, and partly to the venom now entering your body.

    Then you might notice the pain is a little worse than usual. Still, that's nothing serious to worry about, right?

  • You'll Start Getting Red and Itchy

    Sometimes people with minor reactions will feel a little itching and burning around the site of the sting. That's not what we're talking about in this case. Instead, you're likely to start feeling itchy all over your whole body, and no amount of scratching will make it go away. You might also notice a redness, not just around the area of the sting, but in all the areas where you're feeling itchy. 

    Even this might not worry you too much - after all, it's a pretty mild symptom compared to what's coming.

  • You Might Break Out in Hives

    Okay, this is where you might start to notice something is really wrong. Hives are red or white swollen bumps, and they often go along with itching. In some cases, hives can appear to be filled with fluid that can even break the skin. Breaking out in hives is a major red flag that your body is having a serious allergic reaction to something - namely the bee sting you thought was no big deal.

    Once you see hives, it's time to stick yourself with an EpiPen, if you have one, and call an ambulance, because your reaction is only going to get worse from there.

  • Your Face Will Start to Swell and You May Have Trouble Swallowing

    The worst of the swelling is going to take place around your face. Your eyes might swell shut, your tongue will puff up, and you're going to feel your whole face balloon up like a little pink blimp. This might also be the point where you feel like you're having trouble swallowing, either because of your swollen tongue or your swollen throat.

    Not only does this make you look pretty funny, it also shows you're in the beginning stages of anaphylaxes, which can quickly turn deadly.

  • You Might Get Severe Stomach and Muscle Cramps

    You Might Get Severe Stomach and Muscle Cramps
    Photo: Pinti 1 / flickr / CC-BY 2.0

    As these more severe symptoms kick in, you might notice a sudden aching or stabbing feeling in your abdomen. This is because a bee allergy often manifests itself in stomach and muscle cramps. Considering all the swelling that's going on, a little cramping might seem like no big deal, but that's not always the case.

    Severe cramps in your stomach or limbs may make it difficult for you to reach help or even use a phone to call an ambulance. While the cramps themselves won't kill you, they may make it more difficult for you to take actions to save your life.