Why don’t bees sting beekeepers?

We commonly see two types of beekeepers. The first is those covered from head to toe with protective gear, like a veil or helmet for the head, a bee suit for their body, a pair of gloves, and thick boots [1]. Then the other type of beekeeper is those who go into the beehives with little to no protection but don’t get stung once.

So, how do these seemingly unprotected beekeepers keep their cool around the threat of stinging bees, and why don’t bees sting them?

Bees don’t normally sting professional beekeepers because these bee specialists have gained enough experience and knowledge to know exactly how to avoid or lessen the threat of getting stung by using tools like smokers, wearing protective gear, or simply staying calm. However, there are still instances when bees will sting them, especially for newer beekeepers. Beekeeping is also the profession with the highest chances of getting stung by bees.

Now, let us learn more about what beekeepers do to prevent bees from stinging them.

Why don’t bees sting beekeepers?

beesmoker next to a beekeeper on a beehive

There are tens of thousands of bees in a single hive, and most of them can be a threat of stinging. Though only female worker bees are capable of stinging you, the probability of getting stung is still generally high for beekeepers. 

It may sound scary at first, but bees will generally be defensive instead of aggressive and only sting you if you disturb them or are viewed as a threat to the colony and the hive. However, bees will not sting you without any reason because doing that will cost them their lives.

Bees don’t typically sting beekeepers because professional beekeepers employ their knowledge of bee behavior and how they react to know what to do and what not to do. Through the experience they gained through the years, they can also handle the bees carefully and with care so as not to give rise to bee aggressions leading to stinging. 

The bee species is also important to note so that you will have a clear understanding of how aggressive your bees are. For example, Africanized honeybees are known to be very aggressive compared to the common European honeybees [2]. On the other hand, there are also species of stingless bees that produce honey but don’t sting, hence, their name. 

To learn more about bees, you should also take a look at What is a swarm trap? and When should you stop feeding bees sugar water?

Do bees still sting their beekeepers?

Beekeepers are not immune to bee stings and bee aggressions. In fact, the likelihood of beekeepers getting stung is 32%, which is much much higher than the 5% chance for the rest of the population to get stung [3].

However, beekeepers are still occasionally stung by their bees, even if they are careful. The ratio between the number of bees compared to the beekeeper is very far. Yet, they are only typically getting 2-3 stings per season. This number is still very low if we consider that beekeepers handle thousands of bees at a time but only get stung a few times.

Also read: Are bees dangerous to humans?

How do beekeepers prevent getting stung by bees?

beekeeper harvesting honey

Since beekeepers are also humans and can still suffer from allergic reactions from bee stings, it is better to stand on the side of caution and be careful when handling bees. Here are some of the ways beekeepers do to prevent getting stung by bees.

1. They use a smoker.

Bee smokers are one of the most common tools beekeepers use to prevent getting stung by bees. This tool works by calming the bees through the smoke, which masks the alarm pheromones of bees that they use to signal that there is a threat in the colony [4]

2. They use sugar sprays.

An alternative for beekeepers who prefer not to use bee smokers is sugar spray. This works in a similar way as a smoker, as it also calms bees. However, it can be less effective than a smoker since it can miss some spots.

3. They keep calm around bees and avoid sudden movements.

beekeeper smoking out beehive

Bees don’t like being unexpectedly interrupted by sudden hive movements. So professional beekeepers know it is best to keep a calm composure when dealing with bees. It is also essential to be careful when handling them. You may even hold bees as long as you do it gently. 

4. They don’t disturb bees for a long time.

Like humans, bees also don’t like being disturbed. So if you need to inspect their hives, do it quickly but gently to avoid disturbing them too much. 

5. They know the time of the day to do inspections.

Honeybees are more active during the day because it is their time to collect pollen and nectar from flowers. So, to decrease any likelihood of stinging incidents, professional beekeepers inspect the beehives during the day when they are typically out of the hive. On the contrary, avoid inspecting the hive during the night because more bees are likely to be in the hive resting and doesn’t want to be disturbed.

To expand your knowledge of bees even more, you can read through How do bees hear? and What is a queen excluder?


People interested in beekeeping have been on the rise in recent years because of their desire to increase the bee population that is currently under threat. However, it is only natural for most people, especially beginners, to get stung by a bee, unlike professional beekeepers.

Bees don’t typically sting beekeepers because beekeepers know how bees behave, which is very important. They also keep a calm composure when handling bees or may use protective gear like a bee suit or special bee tools, like a bee smoker.

However, beekeepers are also the profession with the highest percentage of getting stung by bees at 32%. 


[1] – Bee-Health (2019) Beekeeping Protective Gear, Bee Health. Available at: https://bee-health.extension.org/beekeeping-protective-gear/ (Accessed: October 11, 2022).

[2] – Africanized Bee (2022) Wikipedia. Wikimedia Foundation. Available at: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Africanized_bee (Accessed: October 11, 2022).

[3] – Ludman, S. W., & Boyle, R. J. (2015). Stinging insect allergy: current perspectives on venom immunotherapy. Journal of Asthma and Allergy, 8, 75-86. https://doi.org/10.2147/JAA.S62288

[4] – Bee smoker. (2022, September 17). In Wikipedia. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bee_smoker