Bee Stings

A bee posing for the camera clearly showing its proboscis entering the side of the flower

One of the most common question asked to me is “Do you get stung” and “How many times have you been stung”
Well the answer is yes but I do not bother counting the number of times I have been stung, the simple fact is that bees some times will sting to defend their property and even the most careful beekeeper will occasionally get a few stings, it is probably because I do most of my beekeeping with out full protection such as wearing gloves all of the time and I get a much better control and feel with out gloves which makes the bees less angry when carrying out certain tasks.

Why do bees sting? they only sting as a last resort, they are trying to defend their colony and normally a few buzzes around the potential enemy will be enough to send it away, but if that does not work then the guard bees will have to resort stinging to send it away, by doing so they are likely to die to protect the rest of the colony.

When a bee stings, it leaves its sting behind in the skin because of the barbs on the side of the fine needle in its tail our skin being fairly tough means that the bee can not remove its sting and it gets torn away from its abdomen, it also leaves behind the sac full of bee venom, that means that if it is left in place, the stinger will continue to pump the venom into the skin for several minutes until it has finished pumping.

So what should you do if you get a bee sting? Well the first thing to do is to remove the sting as soon as possible, never squeeze or press the sting or the bee venom will be forced into your skin, the best way is to carefully scrape the sting out of the skin, beekeepers soon learn the best way to do it, but just using your fingernail is usually sufficient.
Most people find that after a short time any pain will go away leaving just a slight irritation, you can apply skin creams to the affected area such as Honey and Propolis Healing Balm available here on the mail order section, or a spray from your local chemist.
Beekeepers normally find that after several stinging experiences, the pain is much less and any swelling soon disappears more quickly, but there are a very small number of people that react badly to stings and can cause what is called an Anaphylactic shock

Magnified picture of a bee sting (Thanks to Draper’s Super Bee Apiaries)

Anaphylactic Shock

Following a talk at our local Beekeepers Meeting by a Doctor experienced in this particular field, he gave us graphic details about this condition and so I am now including some of the things that he told us, but you must seek medical advice from your own doctor at all times.

Anaphylactic shock is a severe reaction to both bee or wasp stings, it can also be brought on by certain food allergies such as Peanuts, Tree nuts, Sesame seeds, Fish and Shellfish, Eggs, Cows milk and other things such as Latex Rubber, Medicines and Exercise.

The first time you are stung by a bee or bees , it can be several stings at the same time, there is normally no problem apart from the normal pain and local swelling from the stings.
But an Anaphylaxis sufferer will respond very badly the next time round because it takes at least two separate stinging experiences to respond to this rare occurrence.

Symptoms

Narrowed airways, leaking blood vessels, swelling blood vessels and sometimes bursting.
Increased heart rate
Collapse and unconsciousness
Difficulty breathing
A sense of doom
A drop in blood pressure causing a sudden feeling of weakness
Itchy feeling
Difficulty in swallowing
Vomiting/ Diarrhoea

Anyone who suffers from any of the above should seek medical advise

Treatment

Some beekeepers carry with them an Epipen to provide adrenaline, this can be a life saving piece of kit. The Epipen is available to people with known allergy problems on prescription from your doctor. There is a web site accessible to registered people in the medical world www.epipen.co.uk please observe the use by dates.
There is also another one called Anapen.
The Adrenaline only lasts for about five to ten minutes.
Putting an ice pack on the area helps to reduce swelling.
If the patient is suffering from breathlessness, sit upright.
If the patient is feeling faint lie down with the head low and the feet high.

Less than one in 10,000 of the population might ever suffer from this problem from stinging and one in 2300 were recorded at an Accident and Emergency hospital.

Desensitisation Treatment

Our learned doctor told us that this can cause more problems than it solves and there have been recorded deaths because of this treatment. But it has successfully helped many people.

This web site can give much more up to date information.
http://www.anaphylaxis.org.uk/

 

 

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