What Keeps Sweat Bees Away?: 8 Tips For A Stress-Free Outdoor Experience

Who would have thought that bees would take our sweat as their own dose of energy drink?

Sweat bees or halictids are popular for being annoying insects during spring and summer. They are attracted to salts that they can also find in human sweat.

If you’re wondering what keeps sweat bees away, first, you need to learn their behavior and lifestyle.

Since they are in the bee family, sweat bees can occasionally sting but the pain level is tolerable and not deadly. It may not be an issue to most of us but for some, it can be annoying or even potentially dangerous, especially for those who have sting allergies.

Though sweat bees can be another struggle you need to endure outdoors, they play a significant role in our environment. Like honeybees, they are pollinators that help plants bloom and produce fruits.

Their population is becoming extinct and our environment will be at the brink of collapse without them. So, instead of killing, no matter how annoyed you get, you must refrain from killing them.  

In this post, we will share what keeps sweat bees away in the most humane and bee-friendly way possible. They are our allies in taking care of the environment, so we should learn to protect their population while co-existing with them.

Let’s start getting to know these small bees!

Table Of Contents


Sweat Bees and Their Behavior

Sweat bees are the inch-sized type of bees that belong to the halictid family. They have metallic red, green, and yellow skin, bands like honey bees, and two pairs of wings.

They sting other predators and even humans when they are under threat but they are generally not aggressive. A sweat bee sting is at the lowest pain level in the bee family. 

Female sweat bees, in particular, can be quite aggressive when you try to press them. Though it’s not usually painful, their sting can be lethal to those who have sting allergies. 

Unlike honeybees, sweat bees are the loner types. They live in solitude in their nests in the ground, old trees, tree stumps, and dead trees. Though they live alone, other sweat bees place their nests within the same area. You may look for multiple points of entry to see how many nests are there in a section of your garden.

Sweat bees are notoriously known for their distinct taste in human perspiration for their salt and moisture content. As native bees, they also look for pollen to bring to their young. As pollens get attached to their bodies, they also become a vital link in the pollination of most plants.

Sweat bees in other regions are also called:

  • Furrow bees
  • Nomine bees
  • Short-face bees
  • Halictidae

When sweat bees start nesting in the ground, they are sometimes accompanied by female sweat bees that are overwintered during the cold seasons.

They may choose whoever will act as workers and only one egg-laying female remains in the nest. When they hatch new eggs, the adult sweat bees will feed them with nectar.  

Buzz-pollinate: The Skill Only Native Bees Like Sweat Bees Can Do

Buzz-pollination of native bees

Native bees have a specific pollinating technique that honey bees can’t do, which is buzz-pollinate. They grab the other of the flowers and wrap it with their body and use their wing muscles to pump out the pollens.

Native bees like Halictidae are also not picky when it comes to the plants and flowers that they will pollinate, unlike honey bees.

Hoverflies vs. Sweat bees: What’s The Difference?

Many homeowners often confuse sweat bees with hoverflies. Some say that they are the same. 

However, Peter Coppinger, a biologist, shared in WTHI-TV that they are entirely different species. Hoverflies usually mimic the bands of the sweat bees to protect themselves from predators. 

Here are some differences that will help you differentiate sweat bees from hoverflies:

  • Wings: Sweat bees have four wings while hoverflies have two.
  • Movement: Hoverflies usually hover or stay over the flowers steadily from one position to the other. 
  • Sting: Hoverflies don’t sting and attack humans while females sweat bees, when provoked, can sting you. 
  • Food: Both are attracted to human sweat but sweat bees also look for pollen. 
  • Young: Young sweat bees stay in their nest until they are adults while the larvae of hoverflies feed on aphids in the garden.

Keeping Sweat Bees Away vs. Killing or Trapping Them

As we emphasize the crucial role of sweat bees as pollinators in our ecosystem, we highly encourage gardeners to refrain from killing them. 

The bee species are starting to become extinct and it’s going to be a big economic problem to our agriculture and our whole ecosystem. 

So, in this post, we are focusing on providing you with several products that will keep the sweat bees away from you and your garden without killing them. 


What Keep Bees Away? – 8 Tips For A Buzz-Free Summer

The following methods worked well for some gardeners and kept the annoying bees away from their sweaty face and their garden.

#1 Insect Repellents and Essential Oils

Strong scents annoys the sweat bees
Strong scents annoys the sweat bees

Keep sweat bees, mosquitoes, and other bugs by using insect sprays or repellents with citronella and mint contents. The strong smell drives insects away, even mice and other animals.

One of the best insect repellants for sweat bees are:

In some cases, you may also diffuse some essential oils to keep them away in your house.

Here are some of the essential oils that repel bugs:

#2 Ground Cover

Creeping thyme
Creeping thyme

Since sweat bees create their nests in the ground, placing a ground cover can help them find a new home elsewhere. There are several options for ground covers, these include:

  • Ground cover plants like creeping thyme or clover
  • Mulch like pine barks
  • Peat moss
  • Bermuda or Kentucky Bluegrass

#3 Portable Fan

Portable fan
Portable fan

If you find insect repellents sticky, you may also use a rechargeable fan to keep them away.

Aside from keeping the sweat bees at bay, you will also enjoy some cool air under the summer heat. The cool air can also dry up your sweat which will eventually discourage bugs from landing on your skin. 

Here are some cool designs that you can choose from:

#4 Remove Old Tree Stumps or Dead Trees

Tree stumps
Tree stumps

If you live in a woody area, you have a high chance of having nests for sweat bees. Remove any old trees or stumps that may be conducive for the sweat bees to build their nests. They love staying in the crevices of old trees.

Stumps and old trees may also be a home not only for sweat bees but other pests like raccoons and other animals.

#5 Smoke From a Burning Wood

Smoking nests to keep sweat bees away
Smoking nests to keep sweat bees away

Smoke is one of the most bee-friendly ways to keep the bees away from your yard or in any part of your house. It helps mask their alarm pheromones which make them think that their nest is on fire.

So, they leave with all the food that they can carry and relocate. You will often see beekeepers use this method when they collect honey from the hives. 

You may use any dry wood and place it in a metal basin. Lit it on fire and put out the flame to let the smoke out.

Be careful in doing this method to prevent any burn injuries. Direct the smoke on the nests that you found or simply move the smoking wood around to keep them away.

#6 Irish Spring

Irish spring to repel sweat bees
Irish spring to repel sweat bees

It may come as a surprise to some homeowners but Irish Spring is a top-secret way to repel the unwanted tiny guests in your home.

The smell of Irish Spring is too strong for most animals and insects that they have no choice but to leave. You may slice a whole bar into several pieces and place it in areas where you always see the sweat bees.

#7 Take Shower Regularly

Take a shower regularly to keep sweat bees away

If you have the time and opportunity to shower immediately after staying outdoors, might as well take a shower. Keep the sweat off your skin to prevent yourself from being a magnet to these salt-sucking insects.

If you want to keep the bees off throughout the day, apply an insect repellent after taking a bath.

#8 Avoid Wearing a Sweet Perfume and Light-colored Clothing

Avoid wearing a perfume

Sweat bees and other insects rampant during summer and spring are attracted to anything sweet, even the sweet smell of your perfume.

If you’re staying outdoors, make sure to keep it simple and save your sweet scent when you go to an indoor event. 

Most gardeners also notice that hoverflies and sweat bees are often attracted to light-colored objects, specifically the yellow color. They are often fascinated by the light because of their innate positive phototactic response to light.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)


What home remedy kills sweat bees?

A quick homemade solution that you can use to repel sweat bees is a mixture of peppermint essential oil and water. Two to three drops would be enough for a cup or two of water. Place it in a spray and use it as a spray.

What are sweat bees attracted to?

Sweat bees are attracted to four things: salt, moisture, pollen, and light. They only get close to humans because of the salt in our sweat. However, they also look for pollen to feed their young. As for light, most insects, bees, and other moths are highly attracted to light.

Why are the sweat bees so bad?

Sweat bees can be annoying for those who work and play outdoors during spring and summer. They can be a nuisance to lawn maintenance personnel and construction workers and even cause accidents if they come in numbers. Lastly, they can be dangerous for people with sting allergies.

Do sweat bees have a queen?

Yes. Sweat bees treat their mated female as queen. The queen stays in their nest in the ground and fills the cells with pollen. When she lays her eggs, they will be placed in a cell surrounded by pollen.

What smell deters bees?

What is aromatic to us humans is pungent to most insects like bees. The smell of citronella, mint, peppermint, spearmint, eucalyptus, and thyme can drive bees and sweat bees away from your house. You may also mic the essential oil version of these herbs with water as a spray. 

Final Thoughts

Dealing with sweat bees during the hot and sticky days of summer is something that most of us experience, especially those families with kids.

However, no matter how annoyed you are, we hope that you will choose to keep them away through natural methods rather than killing them. Our environment is at the hands of these small workers, may we all be gentle with them.

We hope that the methods we listed in this post will help you keep them away and enjoy your time basking in the sun.

Who wouldn’t love a peaceful meditation or a fun outdoor game under the sun, right? Let us know in the comments which method made you nid goodbye to the salt vampires in your garden.

About Jeanne Keith F.

Jeanne Felipe is a content creator of anything that can make this world a better place. She is a self-improvement junkie and a nature lover at heart. She loves to help people through her writing, either finding the right tools or doing the right thing to accomplish their goals. Quotes, sprouting plants, and cute dogs make her feel ecstatic. In her free time, she loves tending her garden and cooking Chinese and Mexican dishes. Connect her on Linkedin.

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