How To Treat A Hornet Sting At Home

With all this talk about Murder Hornets, it’s a pretty frightening time to be stung by any kind of stinging or biting insect – especially an insect who’s close relative has been infiltrating the news the last few weeks.

Look, regardless of if it’s a bee, a centipede, or even an ant – insect stings are never fun and hornet stings are especially painful. Were you or someone you love just stung by a hornet? Don’t worry. Unless you or your loved one has an allergy or sensitivity to hornets or bees, hornet stings are usually not dangerous and only require a bit of minor first aid care, which you can administer right there at home.

Today, we are going to talk about how to treat a hornet sting at home, when to seek professional medical attention, and why hornets are different from other stinging insects like bees and wasps.

Let’s get started.

What Is Hornet And Where Do They Live?

Pic 1 a hornet against black
Hornets are common insects that belong to the wasp family. 

Hornets are flying insects who belong to the wasp family. In fact, hornets are actually closely related to yellow jackets and are often mistaken for them. However, you can tell a hornet form a yellow jacket by a few identifying factors, including their enlarged abdomen, larger head and mandible, and the fact that they don’t have as wide of a divide between their head and lower body.

There are about 20 different species of hornets across the world, although they were originally most common in tropical parts of Asia. These days, hornets can also be found in Africa, Europe, and North America.

We should note that hornets are not native to North America, and were actually introduced via human travel. Today, hornets make up some of the most common flying and stinging insects in the United States.

Were you or someone you know just stung by a hornet? Here are a few ways you can take care of that painful sting at home.

How To Treat A Hornet Sting At Home – Home Remedies

Pic 2 baking soda
Baking soda is a great way to help reduce the pain of a hornet or wasp sting.

Did you just suffer a hornet or wasp sting? Sorry about that. We know it hurts. Here are a few ways you can quickly and effectively take care of the pain and swelling caused by that pesky insect.

What To Do Immediately After A Sting

  • Remove The Stinger 

If there is a stinger in your skin, use a flat surface like a butter knife or credit card to scrape the stinger out going in the opposite direction. Do not use tweezers to remove the stinger, as this can push more venom into the wound and cause more pain.

  • Clean The Affected Area

Wash the affected area thoroughly with lukewarm soap and water and pat it dry with a soft, clean cloth or paper towel.

  • Apply an Ice Pack 

Hold ice to the area to help reduce swelling and ease the immediate pain. Once the swelling has gone down, follow any of the below remedies you wish.

What You Can Use To Ease The Pain 

  • If the pain is strong, you may take Advil, Tylenol, or other over the counter pain relievers to help reduce the pain and swelling of the hornet sting.
  • If the hornet or wasp sting site is itchy, you may also take a benadryl to help reduce the itching and reduce chances of a reaction.
  • Apply baking soda, calamine lotion, hydrocortisone, or colloidal oatmeal to the sting to help soothe the pain and reduce itching, irritation, and burning.
  • You may soak a cotton ball in vinegar to counteract the acidity of the sting and reduce burning. (Please note this only works on hornet and wasp stings, and does not work on bee stings).
  • Cover the sting with a gauze or a bandage to keep it clean and help reduce irritation.
  • Again, apply ice to the sting sight as needed and keep an eye on yourself or your loved one to ensure that an allergic reaction does not develop.

The below video discusses other home remedies you can use to ease the pain of a hornet sting at home 

How Long Does The Pain Of A Hornet Sting Last?

Pic 3 a womans swollen food
It can take a few minutes to several hours before the pain of a sting goes away. 

While the initial pain of a hornet or wasp sting only lasts a few seconds, (thank goodness, because it is quite painful), the residual pain can last anywhere from 48 hours to one week. You may also notice that you have a red welt, swelling, or even hives for up to a week after a hornet sting.

That said, there are times when a hornet or wasp sting is more serious and requires medical attention. For a local reaction to a sting, you can stay home and treat it yourself using the above methods and monitoring.

However, upon noticing the symptoms of a large reaction to a hornet or wasp sting, it is best to seek medical advice.

Let’s take a look at the differences between a local reaction and a large reaction to a hornet sting.

Symptoms Of A Typical Local Reaction To A Hornet Sting

In general, a mild reaction or local reaction to a hornet sting consists of a small welt at the sting site and perhaps a raised, white center where the stinger entered and was removed from our skin. After the sting, your skin will likely be sensitive or easily irritated for a few days as it heals.

Symptoms Of A Large Local Reaction To A Hornet Sting 

Not all large reactions to hornet stings are severe and require emergency medical attention. However, if you do notice any of the following symptoms of a large reaction to a hornet sting, it is always wise to contact your doctor for advice and tips on monitoring the site.

You may be having a large reaction if the area has swollen much larger than the size of a welt. For example, when I was stung by a hornet on the ankle, my whole foot ended up swelling. This was a slight allergic reaction, which did not require medical attention.

Still,  just to be safe, if you notice swelling or anything that is not typical of a local reaction to a hornet or wasp sting, contact a medical professional for advice and monintering.

Now, let’s talk about what constitutes a medical emergency when it comes to the reaction of a hornet sting.

When To Seek Medical Attention – Signs Of A Serious Allergic Reaction To Hornet Sting

pic 4 a doctor with a red sstethoscope
If you vomit or begin struggling to breathe after a hornet or wasp sting, seek medical care immediately. 

While not all large reactions to a hornet or wasp sting are a medical emergency, there are some instances where a hornet sting can cause a serious allergic reaction that can lead to anaphylaxis.

Monitor yourself closely after a hornet or wasp sting for any of the following signs. Most serious allergic reactions begin within four hours of the sting but can occur after that time period, so be vigilant. If you do notice any of the below symptoms, seek medical attention immediately.

Signs of a severe allergic reaction or anaphylactic shock of a hornet sting include:

  • Trouble breathing, shortness of breath, wheezing, or gasping for air
  • Intense swelling of your face, lips or throat
  • Severe stomach cramps
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Feeling faint or dizzy
  • Hives or itching that spread over the body and are not localized to the sting area
  • Feeling faint or dizzy
  • A drop in your blood pressure
  • Loss of consciousness

Why Did That Hornet Sting Me, Anyway?

Pic 5 a hornet on the ground
Hornets sting if they feel threatened. 

Contrary to what you may think, hornets are really not devil bugs who target and sting you just for the heck of it. In fact, hornets are beneficial pollinators who are actually quite important to our ecosystem. They are also natural pest repellents, eating spiders and other insects, which helps to keep the overwhelming insect population under control.

That said, hornets are the most aggressive of wasps and do have a habit of encouraging their entire hornet colony to attack you if they feel threatened. Hornets are social insects who live in colonies of up to 700 hornet workers, so it’s best to steer clear of these insects if you see them.

But what makes a hornet feel threatened enough to get an army together and sting you? Hornets are highly territorial and protective over their nest. Unforntulaty, this means that you could be doing something as simple as mowing your lawn to trigger an attack of angry hornets nearby.

Why? Vibrations in the air, on the ground, or any movement near a hornet nest could trigger the hornet’s attack pheromone, leading to a hornet sting (or a whole bunch of hornet stings, if you’re unlucky enough to be swarmed by a colony).

Hornets can nest in hollowed out trees, in the sidings of homes, below ground, or even in shrubs. However, the most common hornet nest will often be found in large trees or overhangs. Like the paper wasp, hornets build nests with wood pulp, which they scrape and chew from wood to create nests that look like large, papery hives.

If you see a hornet nest, the best thing to do is leave it alone and move on. This is the most effective way to avoid a hornet or wasp sting at all.

But how do you know if you’ve just encountered a hornet, a bee, or a wasp? Let’s go over how to tell the difference between a hornet, wasp, and bee and learn the differences between their stings.

Identifying A Hornet From A Wasp Or Bee

Pic 6 a hornet on wood Pic 7 a black wasp on wood Pic 8 a honey bee on wood
From left to right: a hornet, wasp, and honeybee. 

In the above photos, you’ll see a hornet (left), a wasp (middle), and a honey bee (right). Side by side like this, the differences are obvious.

However, when you run into these insects separate from one another, it may be difficult to know what you are dealing with, especially because wasps and hornets can be a multitude of colors and resemble one another.


It’s perhaps easiest to tell a bee from a wasp or hornet because honey bees have fuzz. They are smaller than both wasps and hornets, have very large eyes, small anteni, and generally look less threatening. Thanks Mother Nature!


The wasp, on the other hand, may not deliver as powerful of a sting as their hornet cousin, but they do for some reason look a bit more scary. Wasps have thinner abdominis, an accentuated divide between their abdomen and chest, and small heads and eyes.


Last, we have hornets. Remember, although hornets are wasps, they are the larger version of wasps. You can tell a hornet from their smaller wasp counterpart by looking at the head. Hornets have larger heads and mandibles, and larger abdominis without such a pronounced divide between their abdomen and chest.

How Is A Hornet Sting Different From A Wasp Or Bee Sting?

Pic 9 an upclose hornet looking at camera
Hornets are the largest in the wasp family and can sting multiple times.

There are a few differences between a bee, wasp, and hornet sting which, if you’ve ever been stung by any, you’ll know.

Wasps are larger than bees, and hornets are larger than wasps. Both wasps and hornets can sting multiple times without losing their stinger. Bees, though smaller, can only sting once and will often lose their entire stinger inside of you. When a bee stings, it releases all of the venom it has.

A wasp and a hornet, however, release less venom in their sting, but can sting multiple times. This makes a hornet and wasp sting more dangerous than a bee sting simply because of the amount of venom you can have injected during each separate sting.

Furthermore, while also being more painful than a bee sting, a hornet and wasp sting is also more threatening due to the fact that many wasps or hornets could be stinging you at once.

While most hornet stings are not considered toxic the way a poisonous spider bite or snake bite would be, they can still be dangerous.

You should know that you can develop an allergy at any time to a wasp, hornet, or bee sting, and each time you get stung you are at more of a risk for developing an allergy the next time you are stung.

For that reason, it’s very important to try and avoid getting stung by any bee, wasp, or hornet you come across, even if you don’t think you have an allergy.

Ready to learn more about hornets? Let’s take a look at some fast facts you should know about hornets and hornet stings.

Hornets – Fast Facts You Should Know

Pic 10 a hornet on a tree
There are 20 species of hornets, and all hornets are wasps.  

Did you know that all hornets are wasps but not all wasps are hornets? Furthermore, hornets are not native to North America and were introduced here through human travel. These incredible insects are also fabulous pollinators and eat other bugs like spiders, bees, flies, and caterpillars. They also eat tree sap and leaves.

Let’s take a moment to learn some more fast facts about hornets:

A hornet outside of his nesting area is actually pretty docile.

Wait, so these guys aren’t just mindless stinging machines? Of course not! In fact, when not obligated to protect their colony and nest, hornets typically keep to themselves and will go out of their way to avoid stinging you. Some researches even found hornets to be passive and shy, avoiding conflict at all costs.

Some hornets nest underground

Hornets are pretty adaptable and crafty. They can build nests underground, in trees, beneath roofs, under decks, in sheds, garages, hollowed out trees, attics, and pretty much any other raised or buried surface they see fit.

Only female hornets can sting

Actually, this is true for all bees, wasps, and hornets. Females have what is known as an ovipositor, which is basically their egg-layer. The ovipositor is also their stinger. Who knew?

Hornets can annihilate bees

This is one of our more sad hornet facts and one of the bigger concerns when it comes to the newly invading Giant Asian Hornets into the US. Hornets are bee predators, and have been known to wipe out entire colonies of honeybees at a time.

Luckily, honeybees have evolved and now make a fierce opponent. They keep a watchful eye for hornets on the hunt, and will often attack before a hornet can release the pheromone that attracts other hornets to their colony. The honeybees will attack the lone hornet in numbers, vibrating their bodies so intensely that the hornet will literally be cooked alive.

Dang, Mother Nature!

Best Products To Help Keep Hornets Out Of Your Yard And Garden

Pic 11 a horent on a leaf
Most common wasp and bee repellents will also help get rid of hornets.

Hornets may be beneficial, but they can also pack quite a sting and are especially aggressive when they are in their nesting territory. For this reason, the best way to avoid a hornet or wasp sting is to ensure you keep hornets from nesting on your property.

Let’s take a look at some of the best products to help keep hornets from nesting near your home below.

Tanglefoot Waspinator Repellent

No products found.

Because hornets are wasps and wasps are super territorial, one of the best ways to keep a hornet from nesting near your property is to hang a false wasp nest.

One of the wasp nests we love that will totally psyche hornets out and deter them from nesting near you is the Waspinator by Tanglefoot. The order comes in a set of three and they are all portable, so you can bring them with you anywhere you go.

This is great for those who love to go camping or hang out outdoors for long periods of time. You can hang this fake nest around your porch, near your tent or RV, or anywhere else you want to keep hornets at bay.

Wondercide Natural Pest Control Spray

No products found.

Hornets are predator insects who hunt and eat other insects like flies, bees, ants, and more. If you can reduce the number of insects on your property, you can also reduce the number of hornets hanging around.

Along with hanging a hornet deterrent like a false hornet nest on your property, you can also try Wondercide Natural Pest Spray. This product uses all natural ingredients that are safe to use around children and pets and will help not only deter insects hornets feed on, but also the hornets themselves.

FMI Hanging Hornet Deterrent

No products found.

Another false hanging hornet nest we like is the FMI Hanging Hornet Deterrent. This product works on wasps and yellow jackets as well, and uses hornets’ natural territorial instincts to help repel them from nesting anywhere they think other hornets or wasps are nesting.

You can order as many as you need and hang them anywhere you have had past hornet activity. These fake nests can be hung in garages, trees, on porches, under decks, and so on.

Tips On Avoiding A Future Hornet Sting

Pic 12 a hornet on cement
Avoid a sting by using repellents to keep hornets away from your property. 

Yes, hornets can be aggressive if they are near their nest or colony, but for the most part these insects prefer to be left to themselves and live their lives. They are also beneficial and can help control pesky insects like spiders and ants.

However, a hornet sting can simply ruin your entire day, so it’s best to try and avoid any kind of hornet interaction at all.

You can avoid a future hornet sting by implementing some of the above repellent remedies like using deterrents and sprays to help repel hornets from nesting on your property. If you do come across a hornet nest, you may want to contact a professional for help removing it altogether.

It’s best not to try and remove a hornet nest on your own, especially if you have a known allergy to bee or wasp stings. Remember, hornets can sting multiple times and often they get their whole colony involved in an attack. So be careful and play it safe!

What do you think about hornets and a hornet sting? Do you have any other home remedies for how to treat a hornet sting at home that we forgot to mention? Leave us your thoughts in the comment section below.

Hornet Sting