How to Cope with Bee Stings
If fear of a bee sting is holding you back from becoming a beekeeper, then I, Matthew Davies, am here to assure you that knowledge is power. In this blog, I will explain what a bee sting is, why bees sting you in the first place, and how to avoid and treat a sting. Even if you are allergic to bee stings, you shouldn’t let fear hold you back from this enjoyable hobby! With that in mind, let’s get started!
What Is A Bee Sting?
A bee sting is the point in which the bee’s barbed stinger enters into the skin. Doing so will cause the bee to start injecting a venom called apitoxin. Apitoxin is quite interesting as it contains many different proteins that have various effects on people. The main ingredient in apitoxin is melittin, a peptide that is currently being used in both HIV and cancer patients to combat the diseases.
Once the venom is released into your skin, there is usually swelling that happens at the source and surrounding skin area. Likely there will be a certain amount of pain and itching that coincides with the sting. Have no fear; these feelings are temporary.
Sadly, during the stinging, the stinger will be ripped from the abdomen of the bee and thus end its life. The only reason this happens is that human skin is so tough. When stinging other bees or wildlife, this does not generally happen.
After the stinger is removed from the bee’s body, it will continue to pump venom until it quits and moves or the stinger is removed. If you get stung, the first thing you should do is remove the stinger from yourself to minimize the impact of the apitoxin on your skin. This can be done quickly by using a credit card (or similar such item) to coax the stinger out. Never use tweezers to remove a stinger as it will compress the venom sac and inject the remainder of the venom under your skin. Look at the stinger and press the credit card in the opposite direction than the stinger is in your skin.
Why Do Bees Sting?
Contrary to popular belief, bees don’t sting because they are violent. The three most common reasons bees sting humans are because they have been stepped on, they have been handled roughly, or you are too close to their hive and viewed as a threat. T
Another misconception is that all bees sting. This is absolutely false. As a matter of fact, male drones do not even have stingers. Queens have stingers, but they don’t use them on humans. The only reason they have stingers is to fend off rival queens. The difference in the queen’s stinger and other bees is that it is a smooth stinger, much like that of a hornet.
What Does All This Mean to Me?
I know I just threw a ton of factual information at you in a very short period of time. I think it is essential to know the elements and reasons for a bee sting to understand better how to cope with a sting.
I want you to know that a bee sting is nothing to be feared. Even if you have allergies to bee stings, there are ways to deal with it. No matter who you are, make sure you are carrying an Epi-Pen with you at all times when you are beekeeping. Because you are not currently allergic to stings, it does not mean you cannot become allergic to them over time. Remember, the more often you get stung, the higher your chances of reacting to the sting.
How Do I Avoid Bee Stings?
I wrote an entire article that can be found in my blogs detailing how you can avoid bee stings. To recap:
- Avoid tending to your bees during periods of bad weather.
- Work on your hives when the majority of the bees are out for the day.
- Always wear solid light colors when tending to your hives.
- Never swat or run from a bee.
How Do I Cope If I Do Get Stung?
If you take all safety precautions, you will rarely, if ever, get stung. I have been beekeeping for the better part of a decade, and only just last week did I get my first sting. To be fair, it was my fault as I left some skin exposed and walked too close to a hive during a time when a lot of bees were in the colony. A worker found the exposed skin, and that was all it took. Below is a list of things you can do when and if that time ever comes for you.
- Get the stinger out! Remember, that stinger will continue to pump venom into you for a while. Stingers can pump up to ten minutes outside the bee’s body. The more apitoxin it pumps into you, the worse off you are going to be.
- Wash the area thoroughly. This is not going to make the pain go away, but it will prevent infection. You should wash it once when it happens and continue to wash it whenever you get the chance.
- Put ointment on the affected area. Any ointment that prevents itching will do the trick. The reason you want control itching is that scratching the sting site will push the apitoxin further into your skin. That makes the pain last for longer than it should.
- Make use of ice. Ice can help reduce the swelling and draw the venom out of your skin. It also helps with the itching you are feeling. Ice is a good fall back if you don’t have any ointment around.
- Take medicine. I suggest taking a Benadryl right after a bee sting. The antihistamine blockers in the pills will help reduce the itching and swelling even further. Talk to a doctor to make sure that Benadryl is something you can take.
I, Matthew Davies, hope you have found this blog beneficial to your needs. Remember, knowing how to cope with bee stings is vital if you are working with bees. Enjoy your bees with the comfort that comes from knowing how to deal with the stings as they come.