Do Yellow Jackets Leave a Stinger or Die After They Sting?

When you encounter a yellowjacket outside, your first instinct is to avoid it as much as possible. However, if you get stung by one, the experience isn’t entirely like getting stung by an ordinary bee, even if it does feel as painful. Therefore, you might have this question on your mind: Do Yellow Jackets Leave A Stinger?

This guide will show you what can happen after getting stung by a yellowjacket, what happens if its stinger gets left in your skin, how to treat it, and how to keep these insects away. 

Do Yellow Jackets Sting or Bite?

Unfortunately, yellowjackets can sting as well as bite their targets. However, you’re more likely to get stung by one than bitten. If you’re really unlucky, some yellowjackets might bite you to grip onto you in order to find an ideal position to pierce you with their stinger. A double-whammy if you will!

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How Bad is a Yellow Jacket Sting?

Getting stung by a yellowjacket isn’t a pleasant experience. At best you can expect to feel sore, itchy, and swollen after its stinger leaves your skin. However, some people might be more susceptible to experiencing a severe allergic reaction, or anaphylaxis, after getting stung. For some people, this can occur after just one sting or as a result of being stung over and over. In this case, the reaction intensifies significantly after each sting and can become deadly.

Is a Yellow Jacket Sting Worse Than a Wasp Sting?

When people imagine aggressive stinging insects that resemble the common bee, wasps and yellowjackets are some of the ones that come to mind first. Although getting stung by either can cause measurable pain, yellowjacket stings tend to hurt more because they tend to be more aggressive in nature.

However, the reaction to the sting can vary depending on a person’s chemical response to the sting’s venom and the chemical composition of the yellowjacket’s venom. It really does depend from person to person.

Can Yellow Jackets Sting More Than Once?

Unlike bees, yellow jackets can sting you more than once. Whereas bees sting once, leave their stinger in you, and subsequently die, yellowjackets can sting you without worrying about leaving their stinger in your skin. Additionally, their small size and exponential aggression make them hard to avoid and easy to agitate.

Do Yellow Jackets Die After They Sting?

Yellowjackets are small and slim wasp-like insects bearing yellow and black markings, making them strikingly similar in appearance to the average bee. Although some people might mistake them for each other, the aftermath of their stinging differs significantly.

When bees sting you with their barbed stinger, they die shortly after. However, when yellowjackets sting you, they don’t die. When this occurs, they can continue stinging you until they’re ready to move on. Additionally, they can spend their entire lifespan stinging continuously without instantly dying.

Other than the color and the ability to sting, that’s where the similarities between bees and yellowjackets pretty much cease. Yellowjackets do not make honey, nor do they build honeycomb hives. In fact, yellowjackets tend to attack and feed on honey bees, then hijack their honeycombs especially when natural food supplies dry up towards the end of the summer and into the fall. 

Do Yellow Jackets Leave a Stinger Behind?

In most cases, yellowjackets can remove their stinger without leaving it in your skin before flying away or stinging you again.

That being said, it is possible for the stinger of a yellowjacket to dislodge from their bodies after stinging you. When this situation occurs, it would be wise to treat it immediately and seek professional medical assistance, especially if there is potential for an allergic reaction.

What Happens If You Don’t Remove a Yellow Jacket Stinger?

If a yellowjacket stinger is left in the skin, the stinger will continue transmitting venom into your body. This is more likely to develop an infection if left untreated. I recommend removing the stinger as soon as possible.

Some immediate symptoms to watch for if you can’t remove the stinger include:

  • Nausea
  • Redness
  • Itchiness
  • Swelling
  • Pain
  • Breathing issues
  • Tightness in the throat or chest

People with severe allergies to yellowjacket stings are more prone to encountering one or more of these symptoms and/or face a life-threatening situation if immediate emergency care is not sought.

What is the Best Treatment for a Yellow Jacket Sting?

If you have a mild reaction to a yellowjacket sting, you can perform minimal remedies to lessen the effects of the pain.

Firstly, if the yellowjacket left its stinger in the skin, remove it with a clean fingernail or – even better – sterile tweezers. Removing the stinger as soon as possible will limit the amount of venom entering the person and could help to lessen the effects of the sting.

Once the stinger is removed give the sting site a thorough clean with water and anti-bacterial soap. This will help to reduce any infection.

After disinfecting the area, place an ice pack or cold compress on it to reduce the pain. The painful sensation from the sting might occur 20 minutes or a few hours after the initial sting, so it is always a good idea to implement ways to reduce this pain as soon as possible.

Over-the-counter medicines such as antihistamines (either oral or as an ointment) can relieve mild to moderate itchiness. Medications, such as acetaminophen or ibuprofen will help with symptoms of mild to moderate pain and will also help to reduce inflammation.

Keep monitoring the patient over the next few days and look out for symptoms such as:

  • Nausea
  • Redness
  • Itchiness
  • Swelling
  • Pain
  • Breathing issues
  • Tightness in the throat or chest

If symptoms persist or worsen or the patient loses consciousness then immediately seek medical assistance.

Home Treatment for a Yellow Jacket Sting

Mixing water with baking soda or vinegar is a home treatment that works as a topical alternative. Keep these treatments away from your eyes, however, for example, if the patient has received a yellowjacket sting on the face.

Should You Go to the Doctor After a Yellow Jacket Sting?

Mild to moderate reactions to yellowjacket stings can usually be treated at home however, if you are unsure and feel like you need advice from a professional, then by all means reach out to a doctor for their recommended treatment plans.

However, if you or someone you know suffers a severe allergic reaction as a consequence of a sting, then always seek emergency help.

Yellow Jacket Sting Won’t Stop Hurting

Depending on an individual’s reaction to the sting, the pain might last longer for one person compared to someone else. The initial pain should last between one or two hours, typically resulting in redness and swelling lasting between a few days or a week.  

If the first few hours of pain last longer, the person that has been stung might be having a more severe reaction in which case it is best to seek the advice of a medical professional. Longer periods of pain may also be accompanied by one or more of the following symptoms:

  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Hives
  • Dizziness
  • Stomach cramps
  • Fever
  • Convulsions

A doctor will be able to offer advice and potentially medications to reduce the pain and associated symptoms in order for the body to stabilize. 

Yellow Jacket Swelling

Swelling is another symptom that can be experienced after getting a yellowjacket sting. Although it’s not always a sign of infection, you should monitor it during the days that follow as your body reacts to the venom. If the swelling continues or develops into hives, consult your doctor for their recommended treatments.

How to Keep Yellow Jackets Away

Yellowjackets are most active during the late summer and early fall, typically scavenging for food before the colder months, so it would be wise to try different methods to keep them away from you and your home.

Examples of ways you can keep them away include:

  • Mixing water and white vinegar to create a homemade repellent
  • Seal any open trash can lids
  • Dispose of any food left out in the open
  • Have a professional remove the nest after dusk
  • Place yellowjacket traps in their most active locations

Do Yellow Jackets Leave A Stinger: Final Thoughts

Although most yellowjackets don’t leave a stinger after stinging you, it can happen on rare occasions. Be aware that these aggressive insects can cause severe allergic reactions for some people, whereas others may just have very mild symptoms. If you are unsure or need guidance it is best to seek medical advice.

It is possible to use some simple over-the-counter remedies during the first few hours or days to relieve the symptoms of mild reactions. In addition, you could try some of my ideas to keep them away in the first instance.

Yellowjackets have the ability to sting more than once, but with your newfound knowledge and preparedness, it is possible that you can strike back.