9 Easy Solutions: How to Get Rid of Sweat Bees

Summer can be a frustrating time as far as insects are concerned, and sweat bees are no exception.

Gatecrashing your garden party, circling your head, or using your arm as a landing strip. What is it with these insects? Why are they so interested in us, and are they dangerous?

In this article, we will reveal the secret world of this bee and offer expert advice on how to get rid of sweat bees and get your garden party back on track.

Key Takeaways

  • Sweat bees are attracted to human sweat because of its salt content. They’re usually not aggressive, and their stings are relatively painless. Understanding their behavior and attraction can help minimize encounters.
  • Several effective methods for dealing with sweat bees include using bee traps with sweet bait, applying bee sprays or insecticides for localized control, and utilizing natural repellents like essential oils or citronella candles.
  • Practicing good personal hygiene, wearing protective clothing, and removing sweat-attracting plants from your garden can help prevent sweat bee infestations. Consider professional pest removal services for large swarms or difficult situations.

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9 Solutions: How to Get Rid of Sweat Bees Safely

Some bees are important pollinators, ensuring that your flowers and garden bloom. You might want to kill a few when you see them, but their benefits far outweigh any risks. Your best option is to simply drive them away.

1. Bee Traps

You can buy a standard bee trap from online retailers or your nearest gardening or hardware store. This pest control approach is simple. Just place a sweet substance inside the trap to lure the bees.

The bait can be made of water and sugar, a dish soap mixture, fruit nectar, honey, or any other sweet fragrant substance.

The traps are designed with a funnel-shaped opening. Once inside the container, the bee cannot exit through the narrow opening inside the trap.

bee and wasp trap.
Bee Traps

2. Bee Spray

For localized use, a bee or wasp spray will be an effective treatment. Its use outdoors will be limited but for indoor use, it is a very effective and easy remedy.

3. Ground Bee Insecticide

There are insecticides on the market designed specifically for bees that nest in the ground, such as ground bees and miner bees. In general, they are powder or liquid-based treatments.

The powder or dust is to be applied around the opening of the nest. The bees move through the opening, pick up the insecticide on their bodies, and transport it deeper inside the nest — affecting any other inhabitants, including the queen.

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Bee Foam

Liquids come as a concentrate and can be diluted into spray form. In the case of ground bees, it is often effective to dilute the insecticide with water and pour the solution into and around the burrow as a soak treatment.

4. Bee Repellent

Sweat bee repellent is an excellent way to push bees out of your vicinity. You can try either branded products purchased over the counter or attempt to make one of the many homemade formulas.

Like most insects, bees have a difficult time dealing with certain pungent smells. Citronella candles, sprays, or rub-on lotions are very effective for personal use.

They provide the convenience of pulling out a bottle or can and applying it in spray or ointment form.

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If you want a more creative DIY approach, you can achieve similar results with natural products too.

5. Essential  Oils

You can often find a solution in nature. Citrus fruit has thick, pungent skin with oils. If you squeeze the rind of citrus you will see and smell the essential oils spray into the air.

The thick rind and strong smell are a form of defense to protect the delicate fruit flesh and seeds from insect attack.

Following this logic, we can apply the same tactics to our skin or the surrounding areas. There is a short list of essential oils that you can buy online that are effective insect repellents. These include:

  • Lemon Oil
  • Peppermint Oil
  • Clove Oil
  • Rosemary Oil
  • Eucalyptus Oil
  • Citronella Oil
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Essential Oils

Take any of the essential oils listed above and dilute them with water, then them onto your skin. Alternatively, use an essential oil burner placed in the areas to be treated.

This is a great way to enjoy the pleasant aroma of the oils and keep your living space bee-free.

If you want to take your natural repellent to the next level, you could add the essential oils to an at-home candle kit. Burn these beautiful candles in glass jars on your outdoor dining table.

6. Good Personal Hygiene

If you’re going to spend time in the garden, practice good hygiene to take away the main attractant: sweat.

Remember, it’s the sodium (salt) in your sweat that draws in bees. Limit your sweat accumulation, and you can minimize the problem.

7. Wear Long Sleeves And Pants

If the weather permits, try covering up. Full-length pants and long-sleeved shirts are effective choices for protective clothing.

They have the added benefit of reducing the exposure of your sweaty skin to the breeze that carries the scent downwind.

A word of caution: Sweat bees can crawl inside clothes, so this approach might not always be effective.

8. Use Mothballs

Mothballs are another product available from stores such as Amazon that produce a smell that bees detest. To make use of mothballs, hang them close to the bee nest. Over time, the smell will prevent the bees from returning.

9. Selective Planting

Certain plants give off a scent that bees and other insects love. So, it makes sense to remove these plants from your garden, or at least move them to a location where you’re happy for bees to populate. Some of the main plants to move include:

  • Lilac
  • Lantana
  • Snapdragons
  • Sedums
  • Wisteria
  • Poppies
  • Black-eyed Susan
  • Sunflowers
  • Honeysuckle

What Does a Sweat Bee Look Like?

Most sweat bee species are metallic-to-dull black, displaying metallic green, purple, or blue abdomens with long, furry hind legs and a sharp, short tongue. Males also display black and yellow striped abdomens.

how to get rid of sweat bees
Halictidae Metallic Green
Scientific Name
Body Size
Relatively small when compared to other bees. They’re typically 0.5 inches long or less.
Body Shape
They have slender bodies, with the queen exhibiting a more rounded shape.
Number of Legs
Two out-turned horn-like antennae are used for scent and measuring flight speed.
Most sweat bees are commonly brown, black, or yellow. Many species also display metallic blue or green bodies.

Behavior & Habitat

This bee will often be found in swarms. Despite this, they’re rarely aggressive. Their short tongues are used for lapping up sweat, hence their name.

If the bee is pressed against your skin, it usually stings, but the sting is the least painful of all insect stings.

Where Do Sweat Bees Live?

Also known as Halictid bees, there are around 3,500 species worldwide, with many species across the United States, Europe, and North Africa. Depending on the bee subspecies, they may live alone or in colonies.

There are over 1,000 species present within the United States and 44 species in Florida alone.

Great Britain is also home to approximately 40 species, a modest number compared to the USA but still impressive.

Where Do Sweat Bees Nest?

Most species nest within soil burrows. They live in earthen lairs in sunny, dry places but will also nest in softwood. Certain species are communal (eusocial) or semi-social, while other subspecies are solitary insects.

Since sweat bees are attracted to water and perspiration, they are often found in close proximity to humans in humid conditions, as well as in orchards or meadows.

How Big Are Colonies?

This depends on the specific variety of sweat bees. Many species are solitary. They burrow into bare soil to nest in individual cells and lay their pupae. Other species are eusocial, meaning they colonize.

Is There Usually a Queen?

The fertilized female is known as a gyne and, in effect, becomes a queen. She will birth workers who will defend the nest.

The role of the male bee is solely to mate.

What Does It Mean When a Bee Lands On You?

Like all animals, sweat bees require a diet containing appropriate vitamins and minerals. As humans perspire, we excrete water and salt through our pores.

It’s the salt content that attracts the bees to land on your skin. It’s a more accessible dose of sodium than they will typically find in their usual food source.

Are Sweat Bees Dangerous?

Stings from sweat bees aren’t dangerous and victims hardly suffer any pain. In fact, they are the least painful of all insect stings. However, bear in mind that, like all bites and stings, an allergic reaction is possible in some cases.

Do Sweat Bees Sting?

Females can sting but these bees are generally not considered aggressive. They don’t attack people for the sole intention of stinging them. Their only aim is to land on your skin and drink from the sweat droplets.

Like most insects, if left alone they present virtually zero risks, and stings only generally occur if you aggravate or pose a threat. Most stings occur when we attempt to brush the bee from our skin or clothes.

Treating a Sting

Once stung, the bee continues to inject venom for as long as they remain unchecked. It’s important to remove the bee and its stinger as soon as possible to minimize the impact.

Clean the area affected with water and soap, and use an ice pack to ease any swelling or inflammation. If the pain doesn’t subside, use a pain relief gel or cream.

There can be an allergic reaction but it might not be immediately obvious. If the pain or swelling spreads to other areas of the body, or you experience labored breathing, dizziness, or nausea, visit the emergency room immediately.

What Attracts Sweat Bees?

As a vital pollinator, the bee usually looks for flowers and is found hanging around fields and gardens. Sweat bees derive their name from the love of the salt found in human sweat, which is scarcely found in the plants or flowers they feed on.

When To Call a Professional Pest Removal Service

Sometimes it’s easier to hire a pest removal service than try to get rid of bees on your own. This is especially important if you have a large swarm of bees. If their colony has become excessive, you may need professional support.

Remember, female sweat bees do sting! If you’re intending to deal with a nest or infestation without the appropriate protective clothing, you’ll be putting yourself in harm’s way.

Final Thoughts On Getting Rid Of Sweat Bees

Whether you’re outside enjoying your summer garden party, or just enjoying a relaxing afternoon in the sun, sweat bees circling your head are definitely something that can ruin your fun.

If you’re trying to figure out how to get rid of sweat bees, trying a few things like bee repellents, bee traps, or bee sprays is a great start.

With the solutions outlined in this article, you’ll be able to enjoy a peaceful afternoon outside without worrying about those pesky sweat bees.

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Frequently Asked Questions About Bees

Do Bees Have Teeth?

Yes, bees have a form of teeth on their mandibles (jaws). These teeth are not what you would see in other animals or humans.

Rather, the jaws have teeth with rounded or narrow points. But these teeth are actually extensions of the jaw itself.

Why Do Bees Chase You When You Run?

Running is an abrupt movement, which bees don’t react well to. They will interpret your sudden movement as a potential threat and may begin a chase, or what is effectively offensive posturing or gesturing.

A bee following you is not trying to “hunt you down” but is more concerned with getting you away from its nest and queen.

Do Bees Smell Fear?

Bees do have the ability to smell fear. Rather than detect fear in others in a conventional way like humans do through visual clues, they can detect fear using the pheromones animals produce when frightened.

What Is The Difference Between A Sweat Bee Vs. Corn Fly?

It’s easy to mistake a corn fly for a sweat bee due to its yellow-and-black striped body. Here are some visual differences: A sweat bee has two pairs of wings while a corn fly has only one pair of wings. 

Sweat bees can sting. Corn flies cannot because they’re in the fly family. Sweat bees have a hairy body while corn flies have a hairless one.