RSS Feed
Email this article
Printer friendly page

Ask Rick A Question

Bee Stings

Ouch! Anyone who has been stung by a bee or wasp remembers the experience. The sting hurts, and then area can become red and swollen, sometimes itchy. I will cover some common stinging insects in this article.

Usually, yellow jackets, bumble bees, wasps and hornets will leave people alone. Most insects will not attack unless swatted at or otherwise bothered. Wasps are more aggressive, but bees and wasps will only mount a persistent attack when they feel that their hive is threatened. All have venomous stingers on the end of their abdomen.

Bees, wasps, and hornets all use an alarm pheromone to alert the hive to the presence of danger. Squashing them automatically releases the pheromone, so you had better think twice about killing one unless you have a sure avenue of escape. A mobilized swarm can be very dangerous to humans. The best thing to do if you accidentally aggravate a nest is to run or take shelter. Bees cannot see in the dark or swim, so a pool of water or an area of darkness might be good hiding spots if you cannot get indoors. If you choose a body of water to escape you will need to submerge yourself for fifteen minutes until the swarm gives up and leaves. Being under water for fifteen minutes can lead to death, so you might want to consider another plan.

Here is something you might want to consider before messing around with stinging insects. Wasp stings are more painful than bee stings, so it is less painful to fight off a swarm of bees than a swarm of wasps. A single wasp can sting a target multiple times. The Pepsis wasp, also known as the tarantula hawk, delivers the most painful sting of the bees and wasps. This bee inhabits the southwest so Easterners need not worry unless, of course, you are an Easterner visiting the southwest.

A bee has a serrated or barbed stinger. When it punctures a mammal's skin, it is under the tissue. The stinger is torn off of the bee's body and the bee dies shortly afterwards. The exception to this is the queen bee, which does not have a serrated stinger. The queen can sting a person multiple times, but this is rare because the queen rarely leaves the security of her chamber inside the hive. A good thing for Easterners and Westerners, too. The queen uses her stinger to kill the other rival queens she competes against for dominance in the hive.

If a bee stings you, you should remove the stinger as quickly as possible. Quick removal of the stinger can prevent more venom stored in the stinger from entering the wound. Pull the stinger out with your fingers, a pair of tweezers, or use a flat, hard object like a credit card to scrape out the stinger. Apply ice to the sting site to reduce swelling and pain. Aspirin or Tylenol can help to reduce pain and Benadryl can be taken to reduce itchiness.

Homemade remedies claim to help reduce the pain associated with the bee sting. A paste made from items such as water and tobacco, salt, baking soda, toothpaste, or urine are some materials reported to give relief, but I would recommend just sticking with applying pressure with a bag of ice as the most effective treatment. Urine? Yuck!

A single bee sting can be deadly if you have a bee allergy. The sting may require immediate medical care. An injection of adrenalin is the usual treatment. Some hyer-allergenic people carry with them an EpiPen with epinephrine. This is a recommended and possibly life saving product to take along on group camping trips or outdoor school trips.

Children are more likely than adults to need first aid because of an allergic reaction. The elderly rarely have allergic reactions. (At last, I've found one good thing about growing older.) Signs of a reaction include swelling, a body rash, prolonged pain, and difficulty breathing. These symptoms sometimes take an hour or more to develop, so people with a history of allergic reactions should be monitored for at least six hours after they have been stung, or taken to a hospital as a precaution. Surprisingly, people showing no reaction at all may actually be more at risk. You know someone is in serious trouble if  initial symptoms are, nausea, vomiting, chest wheeze and confusion followed by falling blood pressure. You get that far in the process you're probably going to be leaving us.

My best advice is don't bat a hornet's nest from a tree and don't walk barefoot through a field of clover in the summer. Pretty smart advice, eh?


Ask Rick A Question


Page generated in '.0.0234.' seconds.