Why they Sting, Prevention, Allergies and Potential Anecdotes, Remedies & Relief.
As Beekeepers, we feel that educating others, is imperative to our attempt of helping to keep our beneficial pollinators thriving. Teaching is a huge part of what Friends Hill Apiary does, and some of the not-so-pleasant realities have to be explained as well.
None of what you are about to read is ever meant to diagnose, treat or cure any health condition, and as ALWAYS, discuss your own health concerns with your primary provider or professional medical personnel before trying anything that may have worked for others. Never assume what works for one person, will work for you or yours.
QUICK TIP: a honey bee’s stinger has a venom sac attached to it. The venom will continue to pump into the sting-sight. Both the venom sac and the stinger NEEDS TO BE REMOVED ASAP. Take your fingernail, hive tool, credit card or something to scrape across your skin and remove that stinger. Then you can treat the sight if you are near any of your choice remedies.
In the Defense of the Honey Bees: A honey bee will die if she stings you, so we do not believe it is something that they necessarily want to do! Her barbed stinger is inserted into your flesh and when she pulls away or is swatted away, her stinger stays put. Attached to the stinger and venom sac, are her guts. Hence, pulling her insides, out. Photo at the bottom of this page.
A few reasons why a honey bee might sting:
- Defending its colony and/or the queen
- Dearth (the season when there is short supply of nectar & pollen available) they will be more defensive and on guard
- They feel threatened, such as you stepping on them or picking a flower that they were on.
- They crawled inside your suit and can’t get out
WEAR PROTECTION: if you are a fellow beekeeper, don’t get all cocky and think that you are immune to developing an allergy. That is exactly why I am writing about this! In 16 years, we’ve met a lot of fellow beekeepers and have heard the stories of some who previously had just that attitude, only to learn a very humbling lesson. Some kind of veil, long sleeves, light-colored clothing, binder-twine around your pants at the ankles and a pair of gloves are easily attainable and doesn’t have to be elaborate nor costly. There are a lot of great bee-suits out there though and it will save your “good clothes” from getting propolis, wax, smoker scent and many other indescribable filth on them. Our advice is; if you’re planning on keeping more than two or three hives, invest in a complete suit.
Avoid wearing perfumes; some perfumes irritate them or can attracted honey bees to you.
Let your loved ones know when and where you will be working near or with your hives.
Have your cell phone charged and with you when working near or with your hives.
Learn and discuss with your loved ones how to use your Epi pen if you have one.
A smoker as well as peppermint essential oil can be used to help mask the defense pheromone dispersed with the sting.
A Few Types of Reactions to Honey Bee Stings:
The following may be just some of the reactions a person may experience. There may be other reactions, and every individual may even experience various reactions at different times in their lives, as well as different levels of severities. NEVER assume you will react the same way every time you get stung by a honey bee. ALWAYS use caution when you are near honey bee hives and apiaries.
Mild Reaction, Normal Reaction, Localized Reaction, Moderate Reaction:
May include, but not limited to:
*Anaphylactic Shock Reaction – SEEK IMMEDIATE MEDICAL TREATMENT!
Considered a “Severe Reaction”
Swelling of Face, Throat, Tongue or Mouth
Hives or Itchy Rash
Dizziness or Drop in Blood Pressure
Nausea, Stomach Cramps or Diarrhea
Loss of Consciousness
*Seeking medical treatment immediately is top priority if you or someone you know has any of these or other severe reactions to a honey bee sting! Call 911
Treatments: Here are just a few of the treatments or products that are used, today. Not all will work for everyone or may not be available to everyone. Talk with your primary physician if you believe you have any questionable reactions to honey bee stings. There are many more options than is listed here to choose from.
Prescriptions needed for:
Epinephrine aka Epi Pen (pay attention to the expiration dates)
Immunotherapy (Allergist monitored injections to build up a tolerance)
Over the Counter:
Herbal & Home Remedies:
There are a super abundance of herbal and home remedies for mild to moderate reactions and some of us do have complete confidence in some of them. With that said, I still want to express that what works for us, does not mean that it will also work for you! You MUST do your own research, skin patch-tests, and use good judgment!
Our All-Natural Methods:
- Honey (Yes, honey for honey bee stings) many beneficial properties.
- Some of our favorite herbs are; Plantain, Dandelion, Calendula, Comfrey, Jewelweed, Lavender, Thyme, Peppermint… (herbs each have their own benefits so do your research), we use fresh herbs by picking, then crushing to extract some of the oils and then placing directly onto the sight.
- We’ve also use particular purchased essential oils with great results. Ex: Tea Tree is a good one.
- A thick paste of Baking Soda & water
- Apply a wet tea bag
- Vinegar; it helps neutralize the venom
- Ice; mostly for the swelling and if there’s any heat at the sight.
Usually, these herbal & home remedies need to be reapplied several times a day until our comfort level has been reached. Listed is only a few options for those who may choose alternative comfort for topical relief other than what is mass produced by companies who we don’t even know what goes into or where they get their ingredients.
There are millions of remedies, methods and information about alternative treatments for honey bee stings for you to find, but for this, I just wanted to mention at least a few. Also, most of these are readily available to zones 5-6, and should be sought to establish around the homestead for various reasons as well as for honey bee stings.
We hope this article helps give comfort to those, who like us, want to continue in your beekeeping or homesteading endeavors. They are such sweet creatures who fill our world with nourishment, abundance, and color! Without them, we would not have our health.
Thank you for supporting all of your local Beekeepers! They truly need it.