We get it. Bees are important to the environment but if, for some reason, they pose a problem in your garden, then we are here to help. Our guide is packed with all the best tips to show sweat bees the door.
You can try one or several tips to find the best SWAT tactics for your situation! We also explain more about the dangers of sweat bees and how they got their name.
Table of Contents
How to Identify Sweat Bees
We are all pretty familiar with the common honey bee. But what does a sweat bee look like? There are different species (thousands, in fact) so their appearance can vary. That being said, the main feature that sets them apart from honey bees is a metallic sheen.
Many sweat bee species have shiny green bodies with stripes. Indeed, some people might initially confuse them for blue bottle flies. Since they are also very slender, these bees are also sometimes mistaken for wasps.
But a closer look will reveal the insect’s undeniable bee shape. They can also be seen gathering pollen on their back legs like honey bees.
What’s in a Name
So, what’s the deal with the unsavory name? Well, sweat bees actually are attracted to human perspiration! This is a troubling thought to most people. After all, nobody wants a bunch of bees to sit on them and suck up their sweat. What if they sting?
There is a reason why this branch of bees has decided to put you on the menu, so to speak. They primarily consume nectar and pollen but this diet lacks two important things – moisture and salt. Guess where they get that from? That’s right, your sweat.
Are Sweat Bees Dangerous?
The good news is that sweat bees are not aggressive. They really do not want to sting people and frankly, none of the males has stingers. So, half of the population is pretty harmless. The females will sting when threatened or when their nests are disturbed.
A sweat bee sting is considered mostly harmless. In fact, the famous Schmidt sting pain index does not consider this insect painful at all. However, there are times when medical help is warranted and that includes multiple stings or if you have a bee allergy.
Symptoms of a Sweat Bee Sting
The sting might not be painful but the effects of bee venom can affect people in different ways. The next section provides two lists of the symptoms that you can expect in the case of a mild or severe reaction.
A Mild Reaction
A mild sting is often not a cause for concern. Although, don’t hesitate to seek medical help if you are worried for yourself or a loved one who got stung. Here are the most common symptoms that you can expect. Most mild symptoms are limited to the site of the sting.
- Pain or a stinging sensation.
- The area feels itchy.
- The sting site turns white.
A Severe Reaction
Severe reactions are usually experienced by those who are allergic to bees. You also don’t have to be allergic to suffer a bad reaction. The latter can arise when you have been stung by several sweat bees. Let’s look at signs that you need to get medical treatment right away.
- Skin becomes pale or flushed.
- The skin develops bumps or hives.
- Headache or dizziness.
- Any swelling of the throat, lips and face.
- Nausea or vomiting.
- Stomach cramps or diarrhoea.
- Difficulty swallowing or breathing.
- Fainting spells.
- A drop in blood pressure.
- A fast or weak heart rate.
The Lone Wolves of the Bee World
Sweat bees also differ from honey bees in another way. Honey bees are famous for their organized societies and hive life. A sweat bee, on the other hand, is a loner. This kind of works in your favor if you don’t want them hanging around in your garden. How? Well, it is easier to face solitary bees than a swarm!
Unfortunately, this does not mean that you will encounter only one bee. A suitable garden can attract several solitary sweat bees, making it appear as if there is a hive somewhere. While some species have their own individual nests, you might also be dealing with a species that live in a colony.
Tips to Banish Sweat Bees From Your Garden
Now that you can positively identify a sweat bee and know more about the dangers of being stung, let’s look at some of the most effective ways to get rid of these unwanted visitors!
1. Remove Rotting Wood
Sweat bees love rotting wood for one reason – the crumbly, moist stuff makes for great real estate. The last thing that you want when you already have a problem with these insects is to have them settle down into more nests around the property.
2. Patch Holes in the Ground
These insects will also nest in any hole in the ground. It is essential to cover niches, cracks, burrows and holes in your garden and around the foundation of your home. It also cannot hurt to cover cracks and crevices in structures like your house, garden shed and outdoor furniture.
3. Use an Effective Insect Repellent
Luckily, there are plenty of choices to keep insects at bay. You can choose between lotions, sprays and smear sticks. But whichever product you prefer, make sure that it is safety approved. For example, EPA-approved repellents are safe for the skin. There are still too many insect repellents on the market that contain harmful chemicals, so select the best one that you can.
4. Limit the Amount of Skin You Expose
Although not ideal for hot days, wearing long sleeves and pants offer several benefits. The bees might not be able to detect your sweat. If they do, they will also have a tough time finding you, landing and feeding.
5. Avoid the Outdoors if You Are Sweating
You don’t have to hide in the house for the rest of your life. Sweat bees might move on to a neighboring home if you do not provide them with the salty goodness they need. You can still go outside when the weather is mild enough not to trigger a sweating episode. If you noticed that you are sweating and you need to go outside, grab a quick shower first!
6. Garden Repellents
Bee repellents are available in all shapes and sizes. You might not find a product that is specifically designed for sweat bees but they will react to any repellent meant for honey bees and wasps. In essence, sweat bees cannot handle pungent smells like citronella. The benefits of using citronella products are not limited to bees. These repellents also banish those pesky mosquitoes from your garden.
Top Tip: Only use products that are safe for people and non-toxic. You don’t want to harm the environment, your garden, kids or pets.
7. Burn Essential Oils
Sweat bees also flee from certain essential oils. These include citronella, lemongrass, spearmint and thyme. You can use an oil burner or scented candles. Never rub these essential oils neat on your skin. There are safer repellents for the skin. Also research any oil before you use it. When used improperly, certain essential oils can trigger epileptic seizures.
8. Remove Flowers That Attract Bees
Nectar and pollen are the main reasons why bees – including sweat bees – are attracted to your garden. They will always prefer a garden with certain flowers. It makes sense to stop growing those blooms if you have a severe infestation of sweat bees or if you want to prevent even a single one from visiting your property.
To identify the flowers, you need to knuckle down and research the plants in your garden and see if any of them are attractive to bees. This can be a tedious job but worthwhile in the end. Removing their main food source is a surefire way to get rid of sweat bees.
Technically, yes, a sweat bee can sting you more than once. It might not be on the same day or during the same moment but after stinging you, the sweat bee will not die. The only bee that dies after stinging is the honey bee. Other bee species and wasps can fly off to sting another day.
Since each person reacts differently to bee venom, it can be hard to give a specific time. In general, severe burning and pain should not last longer than two hours after the sting. Normal swelling can last two days at the site while redness has been known to stay for three days.
Sweat bees can be annoying but they are definitely not useless. These bees are critical to the environment. Sweat bees not only help native plant species to reproduce but these insects also pollinate food crops for humans including important stone fruits, sunflowers, and alfalfa.
Scientists are not sure how long a sweat bee can live. But it takes roughly between 17 to 40 days for these bees to mature from eggs to adults. Some experts suspect that sweat bees create up to 3 generations a year.
In the United States, adults are active throughout spring and fall. The females will establish a nesting site first and then head out to collect pollen throughout the aforementioned seasons.