I always get asked this question: “How many times have you been stung?” I’d say no more than 8 or 9 times - pretty great odds is you consider how many hundreds of thousands of bees I’ve been around over the last few years. I’m here to tell you that getting stung is really no big deal and can easily be avoided by wearing the proper gear. The sting itself doesn’t really hurt, it’s the reaction that follows that is the most annoying (unless you’re allergic, in which case you need to get an Epi-Pen and carry it with you.) But most of us have a fear of getting stung, it’s human instinct.
No stings here - a sunny mid-summer day means most of the bees are out of the hive foraging for nectar and they’re happy as can be.
They say you don’t really become a beekeeper until you get stung. It’s bound to happen, whether or not you’re working with bees on a regular basis - bees and other bugs that can sting are everywhere! In fact, there’s a good chance that bug that stung you wasn’t even a bee.
Often our bad experiences with black-and-yellow-striped-flying-stinging things are with wasps, yellow jackets, or hornets. There are a few key differences between bees and these other species. Wasps, yellow jackets, hornets, and the like, while still important pollinators, can, and often will, sting more than once.
Honeybees, on the other hand, are gentle in nature and only sting when they feel threatened. And when a honeybee stings, she dies. A honeybee’s stinger is barbed and usually stays behind when she stings, removing some vital organs in the process.
So what should you do if you get stung by a honeybee? The most important thing is to remove the stinger immediately. The bee’s stinger will continue to pump bee venom into your skin so the sooner you get it out the better. There are two methods that work for this: one is to pinch and pull it out with your finger or tweezers. Many beekeepers say this poses the risk of squeezing more venom out of the stinger and into your skin. The second method is to use a flat object, like a credit card or hive tool, to scrape across the skin until the stinger pops out. Either method works just fine- it’s most important to get the stinger out ASAP.
I waited a little too long to get this stinger out.
After-sting treatments such as ice and baking soda work pretty well to reduce swelling and neutralize the acidity of the bee venom. If you your sting starts to swell or doesn’t get better in a few days, see a doctor. If you have trouble breathing or show other signs of an allergic reaction, get to the emergency room right away and make sure that you carry an Epi-Pen in the future.