What To Do If You Get Stung

Yes, it does seem unlikely that you will be stung in the winter months. But it can happen as you take advantage of a warm day to quickly check the hive and add a candy board. Whether winter or summer, make sure that you are prepared in the event of a sting.

Go to the bee yard with a plan. Keep something in your tool kit that will remove a stinger from skin. Ideally, this will be an object similar in size to a credit card. Perhaps an old rewards card is lurking about your wallet and can be converted for this use. A tube of antihistamine gel will also offer quick relief. You can add additional treatment as needed when you get back to the house.

If something does go awry and you get stung, don’t panic. This will alarm the other bees and you may end up being stung more than once. Walk slowly away from the hive and remove the the stinger. Your goal is to scrape the stinger out against the direction of the sting. When the bee leaves her stinger in you, there is a small bulb of venom at the end of the stinger. Place the edge of the card (in a pinch you could use the edge of your hive tool) between the venom bulb and the insertion point of the stinger. Scrape toward the bulb end of the stinger with a firm flick of the card. This should remove the stinger from your skin and stop the flow of venom. It is beneficial to do this as quickly as possible after being stung.

It is good to know if you are truly allergic to honey bee stings or merely have an allergic reaction. What’s the difference?

An allergic reaction will cause localized swelling, warmth and itching around the sting. This will last 2 or 3 days and cause relatively minor discomfort. Reactions of this nature can be treated with home remedies.

A true allergic reaction is quite a different matter. This type of immediate systemic reaction will cause a person’s airway to swell and impede the ability to breathe. Anyone who has this type of reaction to a bee sting must carry an Epi-pen (a portable means of injecting epinephrine in an emergency) and use it immediately after a sting. This is a serious medical emergency and should be treated in an emergency room even after the use of an Epi-pen.

Let’s say you are in the majority and only have a localized reaction to honeybee venom. You have removed the stinger. Now what?

Gain some immediate relief with topical antihistamines and ice. You can also take a systemic antihistamine such as Benadryl if necessary. Recently we have discovered that smearing a bit of honey over the area then covering with a bit of gauze is soothing. Honey has antiseptic properties and seems to reduce the itch.

Remember honeybees will rarely sting while foraging away from the hive. They are focused on gathering pollen and nectar with no concern about much else. Foraging bees are not in a position to defend the hive or the queen. Unless aggravated, squeezed or stepped on, they are not likely to sting.

For more ways to avoid being stung in the first place, check out this link: How To Not Get Stung

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