Summer can be a frustrating time as far as insects are concerned, and Sweat Bees are no exception. Gate crashing 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.
The first thing we need to do is positively identify the species of bees that we are dealing with. So let’s get straight into sweat bee identification and behavior.
What Does a Sweat Bee Look Like
Most sweat bee species are metallic to dull black, displaying metallic green, purple, or blue abdomen with long furry hind legs and a sharp short tongue. Males also display black and yellow striped abdomens.
Binomial Name (scientific name)
Sweat bees are small when compared to other bees. They’re typically 0.5 inches long or less.
Sweat bees have a slender body 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 or black and yellow. Many species also display metallic blue or green bodies.
Sweat Bee Behaviour
Sweat bees 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?
Sweat Bees, also known as Halictid bees, consisting of 3,500 species worldwide,
Sweat bees are found globally with many species across the United States, Europe, and North Africa. Depending on the sweat bee species, they can 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 of sweat bee, a modest number compared to the USA but still impressive.
Where Do Sweat Bees Nest?
Sweat bees normally nest within soil burrows. They live in the earthen lairs in sunny dry places, but will also nest in softwood. Certain species are communal (eusocial) or semi-social, while other sub-special 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 the orchards or meadows.
How Big Are Sweat Bee 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 Sweat Bee 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 perspiration and it’s the salt content that attracts the sweat bees to land on your skin. It’s an easier 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 like all bites and stings an allergic reaction is possible.
Do Sweat Bee Sting
Female sweat bees can sting, but the bees are generally not considered aggressive. Let’s say they don’t attack people for the sole intention of stinging them. They just aim 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 sweat bee stings occur when we attempt to brush the bee from our skin or clothes.
Treating a Sweat Bee Sting
Once stung, sweat bees continue to inject venom for as long as they remain unchecked. So 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 sweat 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 the human sweat, which is scarcely found in the plants or flowers they feed on.
9 Solutions: How to Get Rid of Sweat Bees Safely
Sweat 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 outweigh any risks by far. Your best option is to simply drive them away.
1. Sweat Bee Traps
You can buy a standard bee trap from Amazon or your nearest gardening or hardware store. This pest control approach is simple. Just place a sweet substance inside the trap to lure the sweat 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.
2. Bee Spray (aerosol)
For localized use, a bee or wasp spray will be an effective treatment. Its use outdoor 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 within the ground such as 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 and pick up the insecticide on their body and transport it deeper inside the nest and affect any other inhabitants. Including the queen.
Liquids come as a concentrate and can be diluted into a 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.
How to Keep Sweat Bees Away
Salt attracts sweat bees. And there’s no more accessible and easier source than your sweat. When the weather becomes humid and warm, sweat bees will follow the scent and be buzzing around your head in no time. After all, that’s how they first got their name.
How to Repel Sweat Bees
Given the benign nature of sweat bees, we recommend prevention is better than extermination. You can either reduce the attractant or look to use a repellent strategy.
4. Sweat Bee Repellent
Sweet bee repellent is an excellent way to push sweat bees out of your proximity. 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, spray, 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.
If you want a more creative DIY approach you can achieve similar results with natural products too.
How to Get Rid of Sweat Bees Naturally
You can often find a solution in nature. Citrus fruit has a thick skin pungent 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 product 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 shortlist of essential oils that you can buy online that are effective insect repellents these include:
5. Essential Oils
- Lemon Oil
- Peppermint Oil
- Clove Oil
- Rosemary Oil
- Eucalyptus Oil
- Citronella Oil
Take any of the essential oils listed above and dilute with water and rub 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 a make-at-home candle kit. Burn these beautiful candles in glass jars on your outdoor dining table.
What Keeps Sweat Bees Away Naturally
There are a few measures you can take to prevent drawing sweat bees into social spaces.
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 the bees in the first instance. Limit your sweat build up 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 an effective choice of 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 is 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 sweat 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 are happy for bees to populate. Some of the main plants to move include:
- Black-eyed Susan
Call Professional Pest Removal Service
Sometimes it’s easier to hire a pest removal service than trying to get rid of sweat bees on your own. This is especially important if you have a large swarm of sweat 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.