Can Yellow Jackets (Wasps) Bite And Sting Multiple Times?

The Yellow Jacket or Yellowjacket is a very common predatory insect in the United States. They often build their nest under house eaves, inside tree hollows or underground. Often, this insect is mistaken as a bee because of the black and yellow coloring they have. The term yellow jacket is mostly used for wasps that have distinct yellow and black stripes in their body. In this article you will learn how yellow jackets sting multiple times, the difference in their stingers and how to prevent being stung.

Can yellow jackets bite and sting multiple times? Yes, they can and they do. They do bite sometimes to get better leverage to drive their stingers in. Unlike bees, who leave their stingers behind, yellow jacket stingers have smaller barbs that easily pull out. These allow them to sting repeatedly.

Yellow jackets have narrower “waist” with a slimmer profile than most bees. Bees have a rounder profile with a more fuzzy looking appearance than yellow jackets. They are considered as social wasps from the Vespula and Dolichovespula genera. Female yellow jackets are the ones that are capable of stinging.

The difference between Yellow Jacket and Bee stingers

As mentioned before, bees stingers contain barbs that cause their stingers to be left inside their victim when they sting. Yellow jacket stingers have smaller barbs that enable them to pull it out easily and use multiple times.

When the bee’s barbs detach from their body, it almost always means death for the bee. The left behind stinger then continues to pump venom called melittin, inside the victim’s body. In addition, lodged bee stings release an alarm pheromone that signals for other bees in the colony to attack.

Yellow jacket stingers inject lesser venom due to the smaller barbs they have. The smaller dose of venom introduced to the system does not constitutionally mean that the sting is less painful than that of a bee. Keep in mind that the stingers of yellow jackets are pulled out easily and these insects can, and will, use them again if you don’t get out of their territory.

Is yellow jacket venom more toxic than bee venom?

It is very hard to determine which venom is more toxic than the other due to the differences in the chemical composition of each venom. Symptoms produced by both venom are very similar but since the chemical composition is different, the body’s chemical response also differ. It is this difference that makes someone allergic to bee stings but not to yellow jacket stings and vice versa.

Chemical composition of bee venom

Bee venom is 88% water which is why it is very effective on us humans. The allergen component of bee venom is melittin and it comprises 50% of the overall weight of the venom. Melittin expands the blood vessels and causes red blood cells to burst on the area where you got stung. A protein compound called Phospholipase A2  which is 12% of the venom works with melittin to cause destruction of the cell membrane. The combination of these two toxins causes most of the inflammation and pain of the sting.

The “ouch factor” of bee’s sting doesn’t stop there. Histamine is also part of the bee venom composition – 9% to be exact. Histamine is responsible for making your tiny capillaries leak fluid. Bee venom also contains 3% Apamine, which is responsible for tissue damage. Hyaluronidase makes up 2% of the venom and it breaks down cell tissues and promotes the spread of the venom.

Chemical composition of yellow jacket venom

Similar to bee venom, yellow jacket venom contains Phospholipase A2 , Hyaluronidase, and Histamine. These toxins work the same way as that of the bee venom. However, a yellow jacket venom contains a compound called acetylcholine. It is a neurotransmitter compound that the human body also produces but in the case of yellow jacket stings, it stimulates pain receptors which makes the sting a lot more painful.

Another compound that yellow jacket venom has is antigen 5. Considered as one of the major allergens of yellow jacket venom, it aids in the potency of the venom in the human body. In addition, this compound is also responsible for stimulating an allergic response to the venom by making you more reactive to the other toxins and allergens of the venom.

One more compound in yellow jacket venom is noradrenaline. This causes blood vessels to constrict which contributes to reduced blood flow and an increase in blood pressure. There is also serotonin in the venom which acts as an irritant and contributes to the pain the victim feels.

Do yellow jackets bite?

According to some research, yellow jackets do bite but this happens rarely. Experts involved in the study also theorized that one of the reasons why yellow jackets bite is that these insects use their bite to gain leverage to drive in their stingers more effectively. Since yellow jacket hornets have smaller barbs on their stingers, the theory makes sense.

Can yellow jackets sting through clothes?

The perfect answer to this question is it depends on the clothes you are wearing. By this time, you already know that yellow jacket stingers have small barbs that enable them to pierce the skin. These barbs can also pierce through the thin material of your clothes.

For better protection against yellow jacket stings or bee stings, make sure that you are wearing proper clothing when dealing with them. In addition, if you plan to remove a yellow jacket nest from your property, do it during the night. The cooler temperature makes the yellow jackets sluggish and slow to sting. However, this does not mean that you can forego the proper clothing.

Focus on wearing tight weave, heavier clothing to defend from wasp and bee stings.

Those who don’t own proper clothing to deal with yellow jackets use what is available at their disposal. Thick jackets and garden gloves seem to work fine for some gardeners who have had experience in dealing with these insects.

Yellow jackets don’t die after stinging, here’s why.

Yellow jackets don’t die after they sting because they remain intact afterwards. Unlike bees who lose their stingers along with the venom sac after they sting, the smaller barbs on the yellow jacket stingers allow them to pull out their stingers easily without doing damage to their own body.

Yellow jackets have the ability to sting multiple times and each time they do, they deliver venom in your bloodstream. However, the venom sac of yellow jacket does not have an endless supply. This means that the first sting is the most painful compared to the subsequent ones, because of the large amount of venom injected.

Do all yellow jackets and bees have stingers?

All species of yellow jacket have stingers but only the female gender stings. They are very protective of their nest and are capable of producing an alarm pheromone that triggers others in their colony to attack – same as bees do. However, yellow jackets don’t leave their stingers embedded in their victim, there are instances when their stingers do get left behind but this is not always the case. Most of the time, they sting multiple times and will not stop until you back away.

Bees, on the other hand, have a species called Stingless Bee but they are not sting-less regardless of their name. These species have a very small stinger which is considered an ineffective form of defense. Bees also follow the same pattern of “only the female of their species stings”. Both males of honey bees and bumblebees can exhibit intimidating behavior but are not able to sting. Male carpenter bees who appears to be intimidating especially when it flies toward you also cannot sting.

How to prevent getting stung by yellow jackets

There are articles on the internet that say that yellow jacket stings are a lot painful than that of bees. This critter is notorious for being aggressive and protective over their nests. To prevent yourself from getting stung, follow these steps:

  • Keep your garbage in containers with tight lids. The smell of rotting food can attract yellow jackets.
  • Clean your garden regularly of fallen overripe fruit. Don’t just put them inside a trash can, instead put it inside a plastic bag and throw it away. The scent of fruit attracts yellow jackets. Alternatively, burying the fallen overripe fruit works too.
  • If you find holes on the ground, try to avoid them or cover them up. Because those holes can become possible nest sites for yellow jackets.
  • If you are in the vicinity of wasps then try to move slowly away to prevent the wasps from getting aggravated and sting you.
  • Hang some fake nests under your eaves. This discourages new, real, nests being set up nearby.
  • Plant deterring plants like thyme, spearmint, eucalyptus, and wormwood.
  • Survey the area you are about to work on and check for yellow jacket nests. Keep the location in mind and avoid it as you work.
  • Wear shoes, long pants, long sleeve shirts and gloves when you are going be working with yellow jackets to prevent you from getting stung.
  • Any tools that produce a loud noise can disturb the nest of yellow jackets. If you know you are going to be using noisy power tools near a nest dress appropriately to avoid getting stung.
  • Never swat a flying yellow jacket. The sudden movement can trigger an attack. A better solution is to back away slowly until the insect leaves you alone.
  • Try not to wear strong smelling perfumes or floral scented perfumes. These scents attract the yellow jackets more.
  • Keep juices, colas and other sweet drinks in a container with a lid. Drinking sodas in cans that a yellow jacket flew into instantly means getting stung.
  • Light colored clothes seem to not attract yellow jacket as much as bright colored ones. If you are going on a picnic then wear light colored clothes to avoid yellow jacket stinging you.

For the most part, these tips will help you to avoid getting stung. However, if you live in a area where yellow jackets are common you most like get stung sooner or later. Don’t worry, yellow jacket stings are not poisonous. They do hurt a lot but they are not a medical emergency unless you are allergic to them.

Severe allergic reaction to the venom can produce hives, swelling in the affected area, swollen eyes, difficulty in breathing, chest heaviness, tongue swelling unconsciousness and heart attack. When you see any of these symptoms, consult emergency services and a hospital immediately, especially if you don’t have an epinephrine pen to counteract the venom.


To summarize, yellow jackets do bite as a way to get more leverage for their sting and can sting multiple times because their stingers have smaller barbs that allow them to pull it out without a problem. You can be allergic to bee stings but not to yellow jacket stings because their venom chemical composition differs. Both types of venom produce the same symptoms like inflammation, pain, and redness. Only the female species of both yellow jacket and bees sting and males are all for show. Wear proper clothing when dealing with yellow jackets because they can sting through thin material. And lastly, there are ways of preventing yellow jackets from coming in contact with you.

Related Questions

How dangerous are yellow jackets?

Yellow jackets are more aggressive than bees or any other stinging insects. Bees use their stingers as a last resort but yellow jackets are very territorial. They start stinging as soon as they feel threatened. They are not dangerous unless you are one of the few who is allergic to their venom or is stung numerous times.

Do yellow jackets kill bees?

Yes, they do. Yellow jackets are considered to be carnivorous insects. They particularly prey on other insects like bees, flies, and ants. They are also attracted to fruits, sweets, and other human food. You can expect to see them during picnics or around trash cans that have left-over food.

Are yellow jackets beneficial insects?

Yes, they are. Many consider themselves lucky to have yellowjackets in their garden because it is great at controlling other pest insects that invade their territory since their diet mainly contains other insects. As long as their nest is located in a place where you seldom disturb then you can leave them be and benefit from them.

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