The Incredible Honey Bee…Defender Until the End

Female honeybee stinging a human
Female honeybee stinging a human

When the honey bee decides to sting, it will mean certain death for her. Yet, she will sacrifice her life for the defense of the hive. The honey bee, unlike a lot of stinging insects cannot sting more than once. Her stinger is barbed and once imbedded into the target will not easily come out. In fact, the stinger will be ripped out of the bee’s body along with a poison sac. The sac has “muscles” if you will, that will continue to pump the bee’s poison into the victim. The bee will fly or fall off the victim and will slowly die.

If you are stung by a honey bee, don’t attempt to pull the stinger out. When you attempt to remove it you could squeeze the poison sac and inject the rest of the poison in to the site. Instead, use a credit card, a driver’s license or even your finger nail and scrape the stinger out of the skin. This scrapping will effectively remove the stinger and sac without further damage. The remedy that I use to alleviate some of the swelling is applying a paste made of baking soda and water to the site. When the baking soda dries and flakes off the sting site is usually less painful. However, over time I have built up somewhat of immunity to the stings and it doesn’t bother me as much as it would some others.

If you have watched enough cartoons or Hollywood (which unmercifully picks on honey bees) you have seen the person or animal that is being attacked run like crazy and then usually into the water to escape the bees. Bad idea. Yes, move quickly, but don’t run if you can help it. Bees do not like carbon dioxide. If you run then you will expel more CO2 and thereby attract the bees. If you jump into the water, they will just wait you out. If they are on you when you jump in the water they won’t let go. If you have to run anywhere, run inside and get in a dark place. The bees will generally go to a window to follow the light. Don’t turn on any lights, that will just let the bees see you again.

Actually of all the stinging insects the honey bee is one of the most docile. A bee keeper once told me that the same truth applies to honey bees that applies to horses. They will only hurt you if they sense you are scared of them or if you disturb them. They are basically gentle creatures that sting out of defense. Case in point: the reason Hollywood versions of bee attacks have honey bees in them is because they are the easiest and safest bees to handle. Plus you can handle the bees in massive amounts without them stinging you. Just don’t be scared of them and they won’t feel threatened. You see the honey bee gets a bad rap by Hollywood.

When the hive gets into a defensive mode everyone is alerted. When one bee stings you she will also mark you with a pheromone. This pheromone alerts the others to attack and attack they will. They go for the face area first. Again, they are sensing the CO2 and now they also have a homing signal from the first stinger.

In conversations regarding my extracting bee hives from buildings and such, I am asked if I get stung. I put this way: the average hive contains about 30,000 to 60,000 bees. Up to 98% of those bees are females who tend that hive. Now, if you mess with the house that the wife or momma has put into order then someone is going to pay for it. If you mess with a house that is ran by thousands of females someone is going to pay for it. It is usually the one messing up the house. Those ladies get really ticked off fast. So yes, I usually get stung…several times. However, such is the price of extracting a hive of bees.

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Comments 1 comment

johnthebeeman 5 years ago

Very informative and well put especially the bit about removal from buildings as I do a lot of this in the uk.hope you dont mind but I will be using some of this when i talk to the youngsters at the school presentations i do from time to time. Keep up the good work.hope your bees are faring better this year. (johnthebeeman

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