Most bees in New York City are harmless and will not sting you unless you disturb them.

Beehives or nests are often located:

  • Underground
  • In trees
  • In rotting wood
  • In plant stalks
  • On light polls
  • On buildings

Bees are usually less dangerous than wasps or hornets, which are more aggressive and — unlike bees — can sting you multiple times without dying.

Avoiding Stings

Bees are usually peaceful insects and only sting when they are threatened. Bees can only sting once because their stingers get stuck in human skin, causing the bee to die.

To avoid bee stings:

  • Do not wear perfume, cologne or fragrant hair products.
  • Do not wear bright-colored or patterned clothing.
  • If a bee is near you, do not swat at it or move quickly. Stay calm and move away slowly if it is bothering you.
  • Be careful around flowering plants.
  • Avoid nesting areas or areas you know have beehives. Do not approach a hive or nest.
  • Clean up food and drinks outside and seal trash cans. Sugar can attract bees.

Treating Stings

Bee stings are painful but can be easily treated. Some people may have a severe allergic reaction to bee stings, called anaphylaxis, which can be deadly.

If you are stung by a bee:

  1. Move away from the location where you were stung.
  2. Remove the stinger as soon as possible using a scraping motion. Do not try to remove the stinger by squeezing or pulling on it. This may cause the stinger to release more venom.
  3. After removing the stinger, keep the sting site clean and covered.
  4. Apply a cold compress to the site to stop discomfort

Contact a health care provider if you:

  • Are experiencing symptoms of an allergic reaction, such as hives, a rash or trouble breathing.
  • Have previously had an allergic reaction to a bee sting.
  • Were stung more than 10 times in one attack, especially for children and older adults.
  • Were stung in the mouth, throat or eye.
  • Have a large reaction at the sting site, such as redness larger than 10 inches across.
  • Are experiencing increasing pain, swelling, redness, drainage of pus or fever.

If you are allergic to bee stings you may need to carry around medicine to prevent a severe reaction. Speak to your provider if you are concerned about a bee sting allergy.

Removing a Hive

A hive or nest does not need to be removed unless it is a direct threat to people. Hives that are a threat should be removed by a certified exterminator.

Property owners must remove nuisance bees or wasps from their property.


A colony of thousands of bees may form a swarm when it is time to leave their hive and form a new one. The swarm may land on a stationary object. Though bee swarms are not usually aggressive, they should only be removed by professional beekeepers.

If you see a bee swarm, call 911.

Beekeeping in NYC

It is legal to keep honeybee hives in the city. Beekeepers are required to register their hives and follow New York City health codes (PDF).

  • Beekeepers must notify the Health Department of any changes to the number of colonies or colony location within 10 business days of the change

Beekeepers must adhere to appropriate beekeeping practices including:

  • Maintaining bee colonies in moveable-frame hives that are kept in sound and usable condition
  • Providing a constant and adequate water source
  • Locating hives on a site so that the movement of bees does not become an animal nuisance.

Beekeepers should be able to respond immediately to control bee swarms and to remediate nuisance conditions. A beekeeping nuisance means conditions including, but not limited to:

  • Aggressive or objectionable bee behaviors
  • Hive placement or bee movement that interferes with pedestrian traffic or persons

Additional Resources

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