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But bees sting!

Posted by on June 8, 2012

“Will you get stung”? I get asked that question all the time, and of course the answer is “eventually, yes”. But before you recoil at the thought, and fear for your own safely, remember that honey bees are very gentle insects. Unless you are a plant, they have no interest in even being near you (or any other animal), and they will only sting as a last ditch effort to protect their colony – specifically the Queen.

What all of this means is that you can get within 10 feet of a hive and never work about being stung, and an experienced beekeeper can open a hive with their bare hands while bees crawl all over them. While getting stung does happen to most beekeepers on a semi-regular basis, remember that they are opening hives, and altering the home of +50,000 bees, and sometimes stealing their food. It’s amazing to me that the bees don’t hunt you down when you take their honey. If it were me, I’d be pissed.

If you’ve even been stung as a kid, or even as an adult, it probably wasn’t from a honey bee – just another type of insect. And here are some facts that make me say that:

  • Honey bees are vegetarians. They have nothing to gain by stinging animals or humans.
  • Honey bees focus on gathering pollen and nectar from plants. People and other animals are just obstacles to be flown around.
  • Wasps, hornets, and yellow jackets (a type of wasp) are carnivores, and are driven to sting, and eat their prey. And yes, you look like prey.
  • Yellow jackets, often found buzzing around food at picnics, look a like what people think of as honey bee as they are black and yellow striped.
  • If you are in a honey bee’s way, or are perceived as a threat to a honey bee, they will bump into you to try and make you move away before they try and sting you.

Knowing these facts, doesn’t it make sense to that when you think you got stung by a “bee”, it wasn’t a honey bee? If you want to fear a flying insect, fear the common wasp or the yellow jacket. They’re aggressive, sting, and don’t think twice about doing it. Best to avoid them if possible.

But honey bees, given the right circumstance, will sting. It only takes one bee to give you a sting, and there may be 10 to 50 thousand of them living in the hive. Here are some rules to follow to avoid being stung:

  • Don’t ever touch, open, or in any way try and interact with a hive¬†unless you are with a beekeeper. Remember that the hive is their home. Don’t be a home invader.
  • Stay away, at least 30 feet, from a hive, especially the entrance to a hive. Bees fly in and out of a hive like airplanes – they need a flight path and place to land. The front entrance is where you will find the most amount of bees, and blocking their flight path is just going to irritate them.
  • Don’t eat bananas and get near a hive. Bananas smell like the warning pheromone that bees give off when they sense danger, so even the slightest smell of bananas around bees is just going to make they edgy.
  • Don’t wear wool clothing or black clothing near a hive. Bears and bees are not friends. Looking like a bear in a big black wool coat is just asking for trouble.

By following the simple rules above, you can avoid 99% of stings from any honey bee. If you do get stung, a normal dose of benadryl, will help easy the pain of the sting by lowering your histamines, but different people react differently. About only 1 in 1,000 people are allergic to the point of needing medical attention from a sting. Let’s hope you’re not one of them.

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