Just did my first inspection after transferring 5 frames from a nuc to my brood box with 3 new foundationless frames with wires. Everything is looking good. Smoker went out halfway thru but the bees were very docile so continued. No stings, no pest although I saw one shb fell out the bottom. I am using bluebees bottom board. Came back later in the evening to check activity and got stung on the hand. Scrapped off the sting, took antihistamine and applied ice. Waited but no swelling. So happy
Best feeling eh. Love seeing my bees building out natural comb and it gradually getting larger and larger.
Getting stung with little to no reaction only means you weren’t allergic that time.
Ask me how I know
I will bite . Tell me how you know
He ended up in the ER. But he still keeps bees!!
Ouch! Glad to see you are still active with bees Still had to buy Bite Away to take away the itch today.
I am just excited that I finally got my bees. Been learning so much from this forum plus books and a beekeeping course that i could now apply some of this knowledge.
When we started keeping bees, I was the one who would react to a sting with nothing more than a “mosquito bite” reaction, whereas my wife would get a large local reaction.
Three years later, one sting sends me to the ER with a systemic reaction, and 3 years after that, my daughter, and then my wife the following year. All after being stung for years and never reacting.
We’ve all been stung since with no reaction.
I wonder why that is so?
It does happen sometimes, but it is not common. My husband had an anaphylactic reaction to bee stings many decades ago. He actually collapsed due to low blood pressure from it. However, he continued keeping bees and has been fine ever since. We carry Benadryl and an Epi Pen whenever we go beekeeping, but never used the pen. We are both doctors, so we are comfortable managing the risk and treating anaphylaxis if it happens.
From a medical point of view, there could be a couple of reasons that reactions change over time. The most likely is that ongoing low level exposure to bee venom (on bee suits, gloves etc) eventually desensitizes the person by changing their IgE (allergic) reaction to a more normal IgG (normal immune) reaction. This is the principle used by allergists to desensitize patients to an allergen. The other possibility is that the clone of bee venom IgE producing lymphocytes has died out naturally over time. Less likely, but theoretically possible.
The other thing to keep in mind is bee venom dosing. Even if you are not allergic, you can have a potentially fatal reaction to bee stings if you get enough of them in one go. That is why Africanized honey bees have such a bad reputation. Their stings are not more potent, but they attack en masse, dumping a huge amount of venom at once. This can drop the blood pressure even in the absence of an allergy. General advice is that more than 50 stings can do this.
We have a family beekeeping rule that if we get more than 10 stings on a particular day, we stop and regroup for another day. Doesn’t happen very often, but hives can turn nasty on occasion and it is best not to turn our hobby into a medical emergency.
Thanks @Dawn_SD. Good tip on the regroup
Hello Eric, It is more accurate to say you didn’t have a reaction that day but don’t assume it will be that way every day. Things can vary a lot. Once stung a pheromone is left at the sting that tells other bee ‘sting here’ and you can end up with many stings at the same site. I regularly get hit around my black watch band if I am stupid enough to not take my watch off. Sometimes I get no reaction and other times I get lots of swelling and itching in which case I call it a day and I use antihistamine and heat.
Even worse about a year ago I had a lass off siding with me at my apiary who had 3 hives but not a lot of experience so I was mentoring her. She had previously had the odd sting, maybe a dozen over 6 weeks, with no reaction but on this day mistake #1 was made when she had used a rose scented hair conditioner before going to my apiary, all went as planned till we had finished and chatting about 100 metres from the hives and removed our gear and a single bee got tangled in her hair and she got stung, Within about 15 seconds she was in trouble in a big way so I hit her twice with epee-pens and rang 000 (emergency # in Australia), they decided to dispatch a doctor in a first res-ponder car as well as an ambulance. Waiting on the doctor to arrive which took 15 minutes she went into cardiac arrest so I performed CPR till he injected adrenaline directly into her heart and hit her with paddles but it still took another about 40 minutes till they were ok about putting her in the ambulance for transport to hospital. I thought I had lost her. fortunately she survived.
So I’m not trying to alarm you Eric but please don’t assume you will always be safe from bee sting. The venom can vary and the amount can also vary even with a single sting. Some days the girls can be too hot to handle safely so there is no shame in calling it a day and even 24 hours can make a big difference.
Thanks Peter. I will be careful.
??? How was your own heart after that???
That’s one heck of an incident. And well done for seemingly responding as calmly as possible and helping her make it through.
It really shocked me as to how fast she ‘crashed’ Alan. As I was getting the bee from her hair her legs were giving way, it took me so long to find the sting and get it out I almost went straight into CPR. I’ve had medical training but when you are confronted with the real deal and on your own apart from the 000 guy staying on the phone with me telling my to keep going, which I knew I had to, it would have been a lot harder than it was. She was in intensive care when I rang that night but they wouldn’t tell me anything even though I explained who I was because we aren’t related. That was the really hard part - not knowing even if she was conscious.
Jesus, reading this thread had me really worried and confused!
I have been using a full suit with gloves since I started beekeeping (almost 2 months now) and actually went to the shops just today and bought a veil in hopes to transition to wearing just a veil after watching this video by UOG.
So which is it, try to get stung more often because your body will get more and more immuned to bee venom? OR full protective clothing all the time and carry an Epipen?
Try not to get stung and get an airway obstructed with swelling. It can kill you.
I’m a full suit kind of guy.
Don’t be worried and confused. We specialize in overthinking stuff in the Forum!
I wouldn’t deliberately try to get stung, but it isn’t a bad thing if you get stung a couple of times a year.
Perhaps I should be a buddhist, because I am inclined to suggest “the middle way”. Unless you have a history of severe allergies, you don’t need an Epi-pen. I always fully suit up anyway, because I get strong local reactions (swelling over 10cm across and itching for 5 days or more). I prefer goat skin gloves, because the leather gives better sensation than cow hide. The downside is that bees can sting through them. The sting doesn’t usually lodge in the skin though, and a quick rub will pull it out. That is the price of beekeeping! I use a BiteAway pen every 8 hours, and it helps a lot:
I also carry Benadryl in my bee bag, which in the USA is Diphenhydramine. In Australia, Benadryl has a different (less effective antihistamine) in it - suggest you ask a pharmacist if you want to get something similar. Clarityn and Zyrtec don’t work very well, you need the big gun anti-histamines!
If my husband ever had a reaction needing the Epi-Pen, I would give him Benadryl too. We use the syrup - easy to swallow even if your throat is tight, and you can give it to kids too if needed. They work in different ways, and it is helpful with a severe allergic reaction to use both. That is doctor stuff though, you shouldn’t need to think about it. Just carry the antihistamine, and don’t drive if you have to take it.
People are very variable in their reactions to bee stings. For some it is dramatic. For others it is a non-event. Location of the sting can make a difference to the amount of swelling too (fingers don’t swell much, faces swell a lot). Don’t panic, you will likely be absolutely fine. Most people are.
Thanks for the informative reply @Dawn_SD
I can do that in a couple of days
I used to react a little like a month ago but nowadays I barely get any reactions (including the one I got on the forehead!). Though the one on my wrist a couple of days ago swelled up a little and pretty itchy, I guess it’s because I totally forgot to take out the stinger and realized it later while I was driving
Never heard of Bite Away and can’t really see many reviews about it. Do many keepers use it?
Perhaps one of our Aussie veteran keepers can let me know which anti-histamine I should get?
Apparently we can buy benadryl here in OZ but probably not the same as what you have there… https://www.benadryl.com.au/where-to-buy
When I go to a hive I wear a full suit, more often without the gloves, and assess the mood of the hive. There is the odd time I have to go and put on my gloves but more often than not I find I can strip off my suit to a veil because of the warm to very hot climate. Dehydration is as big an issue for me as getting the odd bee sting.
As the video says, if you get a sting rake the stinger out and the blade of your hive tool is ideal and puff smoke on the sting area to mask the ‘sting here’ pheromone so you don’t get a mass attack on the same area. I had that happen about a year ago when I made the mistake of leaving my watch around my wrist which has a black watch band and got a sting right next to it which as I was handling a brood frame I ignored too long and got several stings. Black to a bee is like a red bull fighters cape to a bull. I much prefer to work my bees without gloves as it gives me a much better sense of touch - and maybe less clumsy.
So I get a few stings over the year and I don’t normally get any reaction but I wouldn’t provoke a sting, I just regard it as a part of bee keeping.
Carrying an Epi-pen is a good thing and use it if there is any reaction worse than being annoyed at being stung. But also take the next step by calling an ambulance. I had a very frightening event last year when my off-sider had a single sting and a really bad reaction almost instantly. Not her first sting but the first she reacted to badly. Within 30 seconds she was in big trouble so I hit her with a pen and rang 000(emergency) A first res-ponder doctor as well as an ambulance were sent. I hit her with a second Epi-pen within a minute of the first as she was failing fast and being on my own waiting for the doctor had I had to do CPR.
I’m not trying to alarm you Rani but my advice is to have at least one Epi-pen in your kit and easily got at, and be aware that things can go bad very quickly, and if things don’t look right then ring for an ambulance without a second thought. Lysa spent over a week in hospital and is now fine, and wanting to get back to bee keeping, I’m more nervous about that than she is.
I think there are 5 or six people here who use it, including @Webclan among others. It works really well if you tend to get a histamine-type reaction - red, swelling, itching. If you don’t, there is no point. The head of the BiteAway stick has an infrared LED which heats the skin to 50C - uncomfortable, but not enough to burn you. The heat destroys the histamine reaction for up to 8 hours, at which point you can repeat it.
I use it on every sting myself, and it works every time. My husband only needs it occasionally, but when he has an itchy sting, he likes to use it.