How do I avoid being stung by bees?
During the early spring she may be a scout, house - hunting for an affordable new home for a swarm to move into, or in hot weather looking for some water for the hive's evaporative cooling system. In any case, she is definitely not looking for people to sting! Bees only sting in defence of themselves or their hive. They sting if you walk on them in bare feet when they are gathering water from your lawn, they sometimes get caught in your hair and think they are under attack, and they sting if you sit on them or swipe at them, but they do not attack without provocation. A major reason for this attitude is that stinging kills them. The recurved barbs on their sting lodge in the flesh and when the bee tries to get away she rips out the stinger and attached venom sacs and dies soon after. To avoid being stung simply leave the bees alone, resist the urge to swipe at them if they land on you, they are looking for water and you are probably the moistest thing around at the time. Do not linger around their hives, especially near the entrance.
What do I do if I am stung by a bee?
1. Walk, don't run, away from where you were when stung, the now dying bee which stung you and the detached sting are giving off pheremones which enrage bees, so any other bees in the immediate area will sting you too! They believe there must have been good reason for their mate to sting you, they don't know it was only because you stepped on her or swiped at her. The reason for not running is that sudden movements alarm bees and may trigger an attack.
2. Remove the sting. Do not pull it out by gripping it with your fingers as the venom sacs are still attached, and you will squeeze in a lot more venom than was injected in the first place. Slide the back of a knife, a comb or if necessary a fingernail along the skin to 'scrape' it out. Do this while you are walking away from where you were stung as the detached sting continues to pump venom for some time after it is detached from the bee; the sooner you remove it the less venom will be injected. The sting will probably cause a bit of pain for 10 minutes or so, and may be itchy for a day or two.
Watch this medical tip video about what to do if stung !
3. Look for symptoms of an allergic reaction:
* Difficulty breathing.
* Hives that appear as a red, itchy rash and spread to areas beyond the sting.
* Swelling of the face, throat or mouth tissue.
* Restlessness and anxiety.
* Rapid Pulse.
* Dizziness or a sharp drop in blood pressure.
* If the symptoms are present, seek immediate emergency medical attention. Take an antihistamine as soon as possible and be ready to use the epinephrine part of an emergency allergy kit, if it has benn prescribed in the past see How to Use an Epipen.
After a few years of beekeeping, I seem to have become desensitised to bee venom, and have very little reaction. People allergic to bee venom can become seriously ill and even die from a bee sting. I am not qualified to offer any advice to allergic persons other than to suggest immediate medical treatment. I believe some highly sensitised people carry a hypodermic syringe containing an appropriate dose of adrenalin. For the pain of bee stings, I carry a tube of Dermocaine in my bee box for anyone around me who is stung while I am working bees. It seems to work well, and can be bought over the counter at pharmacies. It is an anaesthetic and antiseptic cream. I am not qualified to recommend it, and I daresay lots of similar products work equally well, it is just the one that I use. Ask your pharmacist to recommend, or your doctor to prescribe, a product suitable for you.
Update - January 1, 2017
© 1995-2017 Albert W. Needham - All Rights Reserved