Viscious Vespine Villains How a Horrible Hornet Sting Ruined My Day

Hornet sting story

My husband and I were carting some branches from the front of our property to the back corner.  We have lots of trees and I was following the cart to make sure none of the branches got snagged along the way.  We both wear long pants, long-sleeved shirts, and sturdy shoes when we are working.

All of a sudden, I felt a really sharp pain in my butt below my left hip!  I let out a yelp and our progress came to a halt.

I thought something had crawled down in my pants to bite me.  I had my husband come over and check to make sure there was nothing there that could get me again.

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A Real Pain in the Butt

The pain was still very sharp, something I had never experienced before.  After we unloaded the cart of  branches, I had him check out the spot again, only to find that there was a half-dollar-sized welt where something got me!

We made sure that there wasn’t a stinger left and that narrowed down the possible culprits.  We determined I had been stung by a hornet right through my jeans.

Hornets and wasps are unlike bees in that they do not die from stinging something because their stingers aren’t barbed and don’t pull out.  Hornets are more dangerous than wasps because the venom they inject is more toxic.  Although it is unlikely that a person will die from a hornet sting, the hornet can sting more than once, which increases the amount of poison injected.

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Getting to Know Our Local Hornets

Some larger hornets found in Asia have caused human deaths in Japan and China.  I’m glad we don’t have those here!

The kind of hornet normally found in North America is the European hornet.  It is the largest wasp-type insect on this continent and can get over an inch long.  It is mostly dark brown and black, but has some yellow on its abdomen.  The females are larger and the only ones that sting.

European hornet sting story

They usually sting defending a nest or a food source.  I don’t know which of those I got too close to, but my guess is that I may have accidentally stepped on the hornet and the sting was retaliation.

We also have a lot of rotting wood on our property as well as large spider webs.  Hornets use the wood to make their nests and often steal food from spider’s webs during the fall.  As we move through our forest, we often have to push webs out of the way.  So this is another possibility for what I may have done to provoke an attack.

If someone attacks a hornet nest, the entire nest can be mobilized to sting the attacker.  So it is probably not a good idea to do this unless you are prepared for the worst.

On a beneficial note, hornets also eat a lot of insects, including those which can be pests in gardens.  Unfortunately, they have also been known to attack domestic honey bee hives and can eliminate them.

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What Happens After a Hornet Sting

Luckily, I am not allergic to wasp stings.  For people who are, this kind of sting can create headaches, elevated blood pressure, and shortness of breath.  If I had experienced any of those symptoms, I would have headed to the hospital for something to counteract the sting.

As it was, I did experience some burning and itching sensations around the sting area.  I tried a few different herbal and essential oil remedies, but the one thing that worked the best was an arnica gel.  It handled the burning and itching and reduced the welt after several applications over a few days.

Obviously, I will try not to get stung again!  However, if I do, I now have a better understanding of what could have triggered it and what I can do to handle the sting.

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Karen the Newbie Homesteader


Contributor

Karen the Newbie Homesteader is a novice gardener, homesteader, and permaculturist. She and her husband recently purchased four acres in central Florida to create their homestead and grow their own food. She will be sharing their adventures: successes, failures, and everything in between - here at The Grow Network.


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38 Comments
  • JS

    I hear crushed or blended plantain leaves take the poison out. Anyone tried it?

    • Sandy

      The instruction I have from herbalist Matthew Wood and others is to pick a healthy leaf or two of either Common (oval leaf) or Chinese (lanceolate leaf) plantain, chew it up a little and lay the chewed wad over the bite for rapid relief. Before I learned about plantain , I was stung twice, both times in the fall when it had been very cool the night before. The firs time was on my hand while picking up a bunch of kale in a health food store. I knew that parsley had a lot of enzymes and was used for some poultices, so I pinched off some sprigs from a nearby bundle, chewed and poulticed, which cleared up the intense pain rapidly and wasn’t noticeable after a couple of hours. The second sting was on my inner thigh while riding my bike with shorts on. Wish I had known about plantain then, because it swelled and ached for a couple of days. Since those two stings, I learned to mentally (ala Perelandra) to thank and reassure all pollinators in the area that I respect and do not want to harm them, that I consider the flowers to be for them. I work around bees all summer and have never been stung again. If I goof up and do get stung, the great thing about plantain is that it grows wild all over the Midwest, and relief is usually just a few steps away.

  • Katherine

    The homeopathic remedy Ledum would have handled the sting right away. It is the best one for insect bites of all kinds and can even protect you from insect carried diseases, like Lyme.

    • Sandy

      It would be great to have a one-stop option for all bug bites. Some practitioners are now postulating that Lyme’s is also a mosquito borne disease.

      • Katherine

        Ledum is that one stop remedy for our family. It was the major part of curing my daughter’s Lyme disease and if we had known about Ledum in the beginning it would have been enough to stop it in its tracks. It relieves itching and swelling of mosquito and flea bites, in my experience. I have read that it worked for others with wasp, bee and hornet stings. Apis is specific for allergic reactions so if you have a known bee allergy keep Apis handy as well.

  • Candee Silveria

    I sat on a hornet on the beach at Tahoe when I was sixteen. My stepmother rushed me home (about a mile away) and immediately slapped on a baking soda paste. It stayed there (covered with a gauze pad and tape to keep it in place) until it dried. That was the only application and the only thing we did. The pain and itch went away by the time it dried, as did any swelling. To this day, I’m 68 now, baking soda paste is my only remedy for mosquito bites (they really like to swell up on me), spider bites, bee and wasp/hornet stings. Works every time.
    Just like lime with bitters works for hard cases of hiccups!

    • GB

      I tend to forget the good old baking soda, thanks for the reminder!
      I tend to step on the only bee in a 5 mile radius, thankfully only every few years! Last year one must have felt threatened when I worked around the blooming catnip, but I have tons of plantain growing; chew some up, rub it on and no more pain, itching or swelling. The faster you get it on the better!
      Years back a yellow jacket or hornet got me! I was at a youth camp and they got half an onion from the kitchen and rubbed it in. It worked especially with the swelling. So there are a lot of good old fashioned remedies – unless you are allergic and go into shock……

  • Had one of those wee beasties sting me last summer whilst on a building site, hit me on the wrist and boy did it slow me down! At the time I was wearing a high visibility jacket, guess the hornet was attracted to it and flew into the thing, as luck would have it she went up my sleeve, got confused and couldn’t get out so she let rip with a sting! She got out after that I can assure you, everybody else wondered what was going on – the scream was fairly loud. Left site feeling a bit groggy to say the least. Trouble was “home” was some 3 hours away by train! Interesting journey to say the least, tis amazing what a good dose of the old Macho male thing can get you through! Probably not the best thing but it worked. Ledum you say Kathrine, must check that out and get some, but will I have it with me the next time I get bit (I really could do without not getting bitten again of course!)

  • Ketsani

    I guess you can’t send a pic like you did with the snake bite. LOL. I
    Hope it will heal fine. If anyone can heal your own wounds, it is you! I am learning from your mishaps. Do you have black widows where in TX? What would you reach for in this case?

    • I have heard a story about a young boy being saved from a widow bite with charcoal and basil compresses changed every 10 minutes .

      • Alison

        I can vouch that a poultice of charcoal and water mixed with some psyllium husk powder soothes the flames of multiple wasp stings. I got stung by several wasps after mowing near their hole in the ground on our front lawn. I didn’t know that the hole was a wasp’s nest- it just looked like a two to three inch bare circular spot where one of ny kids could have dug out with a stick playing or something. Tell you the truth when I tell you that those 10-15 wasps “schooled me” on that one thats for sure.

  • GB

    Some very nice info regarding the hornets! People around here tend to throw all stinging insects into one pot!

  • FarmerDave

    I uncovered a hornet nest this summer while moving a sheep house. I estimated around a thousand hornets chased me. Stung 4 times before I could run into the barn. My cure is to moisten some baking soda and put it on the sting, then cover the sting with a silver dollar and tape it on. The relief is almost instantaneous. I leave it on until evening and then remove the silver dollar, no more pain, but itching for several days.

  • Klaus

    Ouch! Sorry to hear about the hornet incident..

    I would suggest using a silver based gel, such as the one Dr. Rima offers on her website. I use that to neutralize the poison and stop the itch. It usually works for me within minutes of application and not much more need be applied, perhaps a 2nd application at most.

  • Kat

    Paper towel or cotton ball soaked in apple cider vinegar will get rid of the sting. Works great!

  • Josephine Gibbs

    Activated charcoal powder and aloe vera gel mixed to a thin toothpast-ish consitancy makes an amazing poultice for bee, wasp, hornet etc. I carry a teaspoon or so premixed in summer, and a kit with the makings for more. Slap it on the sting and cover it with something to keep it moist – those extra large bandaids with sticky on all four sides work great. Pain relief in seconds and a shorter healing time by days.

  • I intuitively found an excellent remedy for stings and bites [also works well on injuries to stop bleeding and take away wound pain]. Powdered kava kava root mixed with a little water to make a paste and applied to the sting site provides almost instant relief. The first time I used it was at Devil’s Lake State Park near Baraboo WI. I applied it on a woman who had been sting on the upper left arm [close to the heart] and she told me she was allergic to bees. By that time my friends had returned and we headed off up the trail to the rock climbing areas to climb. Later at the campsite we discovered she was three campsites down from us. She stopped by and told me that she was amazed as it was the first time she did not have to go to the emergency room [this was before Epi-pens]. She said the pain was gone immediately and it never swelled up. When she brushed the dried powder off later she said the stinger went with it. I have used it one other time on stings and it worked well then too.

  • pearler

    I would mention that they leave a sack with the stinger, that keeps pumping venom .
    I have pulled them from my wrist still pumping venom . I apply wet tobacco , to the wound .
    Gone by morning .

  • Terry

    You are lucky not to be allergic to the sting, however I have read that the body’s immunities can change about every 10 years. I was stung 6 times by yellow jackets swarming above my deck about 2 years ago and ended up at the E.R. I have been stung numerous times before with no reaction, but when the throat started to swell and breathing began to get labored, off to the E.R. I went.

  • Paul Wieland

    Hornet stings are not any worse than wasp stings (and less allergenic than bee stings). Yes, hornets being larger inject more venomous fluid per sting, but their venom is more diluted. The absolute quantity of venom injected is about the same as from wasps

  • Sarah

    Eating about a gram or two of vitamin C and several digestive enzyme capsules as well as adding one to the soda paste will also help. I second the use of arnica gel after the baking soda paste. I had two bee stings on one hand and found that as long as I ate a few enzyme capsules every 6 or so hours the swelling stayed down. But if I forgot and went too long, the swelling and itching returned. It took about 3 days for the poison to dissipate.

  • Lauren

    The best thing I have found for ANY kind of bite/sting is Calcium Bentonite Clay .. just make a paste and clob it on. it usually takes the sting out of a sting/bite right away.

  • Joanne

    For a wasp, bee or hornet sting…apply a dab of honey, stick a ‘real copper penny’ to the honey, cover with a band aid. Should be good as new the next day. Works great for dogs as well.

  • Vampy

    Very interesting remedies you ppl posted. Thanks for the advice

  • Fire dog

    My dalmation used to eat hornets. New yard we’d just moved in. She would hang around their tree and snap at them, get stung, and… mouth swollen, didn’t seem to care. She’d literally chase them down. Maybe she was doing that to protect us I don’t know but had to get rid of the nest asap to protect the dog. She would NOT leave them alone.

  • MG

    People need to be aware that the first time they take a drug or food new to their system or experience an insect sting there will be no body-wide reaction. It is the second or any subsequent time that their body may show an allergic response. From Medline Plus:

    “After being exposed to a substance such as bee sting venom, the person’s immune system becomes sensitized to it. When the person is exposed to that allergen again, an allergic reaction may occur.” Anaphylaxis is the “shock”, the strongest and potentially fatal immune system reaction
    Take heart though because the incidence of “shock” or deaths from these allergic reactions is very low – 40 to 100 yearly – and dropping in the last few years.

    https://medlineplus.gov/ency/article/000844.htm
    https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/24332862

  • Suzie Queue

    The hornets on my property don’t look like the picture you have Our hornets are black with one white spot on the top of the body. I found a huge nest hanging inside my gazebo one year and killed the whole nest. The trick is to wait until dark then get a couple cans of wasp an hornet spray; aim at the hole in the nest and start spraying. Don’t let up on the spray; you can’t let a single one get out to sting you. They will start piling out and fall straight down on the ground in piles.

    • Sandy

      I have read that once wasps and hornets construct a nest, they will tend to return to rebuild if you knock the nests down. After finding a nest a few feet from our privy door (talk about feeling vulnerable!) we stealthily slipped it into a paper sack one 20F day, cut the stem of the nest off where it connected to the overhang and with the top of the bag twisted tight, quick marched it a few hundred feet away and left it in an inviting looking spot. Since then I check the privy and other overhangs in the fall. No other hive has appeared on or new that location since.

  • Val

    Ammonia take the sting right out.

  • I was bitten by a wasp this spring. After baking soda didn’t do a thing to ease the pain, I tried vinegar. The pain almost immediately stopped. This is from http://www.insectstings.co.uk/bee-sting-acid-or-alkali/:

    1. Wasp sting venom is alkaline and so its effects can be neutralised with vinegar or acid and this neutralisation then reduces the pain. 2. Bee sting venom is acidic and so its effects can be neutralised with bicarbonate of soda or alkali and this reaction reduces the pain.

  • I got 2 wasp stings years ago when one got under my skirt. I used the Lancomb clay mask-I forgot it’s name, because one of the main ingredients is Kaolin clay the Indians used to use for rattlesnake bite venom. It sucked something right out and not much of a bite left.

  • I can add that these hornets also eat honey bees. So we put out traps around the parameters of our apiary to lure and catch these european hornets.

    And a very good paste to apply for hornet, bee and other venomous insects is a simple paste mixing sodium bentonite Clay with a little water. First wash the sting with soap and water and with honey bees scrape off the stinger and venom sac, then put the paste on the wound. Let it dry. Best results when it is applied and allowed to dry and fall off on its own. Very little swelling, pain and itching.

  • ellen

    Homeopathic remedy “Ssssting Stop” is my “go to” for stings of any kind, AND any skin irritations.

  • Katee

    I grew up on a farm in Manitoba, Canada in the 1950’s/60’s. Whenever we got stung by a wasp, hornet or bee, my Dad had taught us to “spit on the sting then put some dirt (good old soil) on it, like a mud paste and let it dry”. Worked every time; took away the hurt and the swelling. When you’re out in the field or wherever, you can be miles away from the house where you can access other remedies and this you can do instantly. Happy gardening everyone!

  • Marsha

    Colloidal silver takes the pain of wasp/bee/insect stings away almost instantly, as it does with sunburns or other types of burns, hemorrhoidal itching, etc. Even takes the burning away instantly on your lips if you eat a pepper that it too hot to handle. Just found that out. Look it up. It is wonderful stuff.

  • Nate

    Whiskey is the best of course- for both inner and outer applications. It stings on a wound but burns the throat upon application, thus taking one’s mind off of the pain. It’s a ‘traditional medication’ and relief is very quick… 🙂

  • Wow is all I can say! Thank you all VERY much! I’m so grateful that there are so many people out there with some great alternatives for such a common challenge so many have once the weather turns fair.

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