Tiptoeing through the tulips? Watch for the Bees!
I find it strange to begin this. To me, summer as a kid was always about being barefoot and freedom. Now part of the price you had to pay for that seemingly endless freedom of summer was the occasional sharp stone, or hot tar stuck to your foot or even the fact that once in awhile you got a Bee Sting! I was amazed this week when talking to my three children that 2 of the three can’t ever remember being stung by a Bee, not even once. Not that I went out of my way to be stung by a bee, but it just seemed to happen. I guess the times were a little more primitive. My mother used to tell me to take my shoes off and go play (saved on buying shoes don’t ya know!). Today it seems like every kid has an activity, soccer, swimming, baseball and so on; very few seem to just jump on their bikes, pedal down to the creek, and jump in, or go out into the woods to play.
But, I am wandering off of my topic for the week. Bee stings are feared by many people for a number of reasons. First of which is that they are painful! I mean, only card-carrying masochists want to be hurt on a regular basis, and I don’t think you will find many of those on here. (Wait we pay money to leave our nice comfortable homes to go live in a little, tiny campsite, Ok not serious ones!). Many also fear allergic reactions to the stings, which is a very valid point! Many also fear little tiny creepy crawly things! That is my personal favorite. I hate bugs and have been know to “scream like a little girl” when surprised by them.
But what is a Bee? Where do they come from? How can we protect against getting stung? What can we do once we are stung? Let’s see what we can learn…
First of all, the Bee is an insect that has been introduced by European Settlers to America. That is right; at some point, someone had to say ‘OK, there isn’t anything to sting us like bees over in the “New World,” so we better go back and get something from home to do it!’ Seriously though, the Honey Bee was brought over to help pollinate crops and to produce honey. In fact, the Native Americans used to call them “white mans flies”. But even they learned to love the honey they produced. Honey is very interesting. It has been used to preserve foods, as a ointment on wounds, and as a antifreeze in radiators, and, my favorite, peanut butter and honey sandwiches! I could go on, but, if you want to read more, I am sure you can find many references about bees on the internet. Here is one to start: The Honey Bee.
Now, how can we protect against getting stung? Well, the easiest way, as I have said, is by wearing shoes! Bees rarely sting unless defending their hives or when manhandled and/or crushed. The honey bee can only sting once in its life, and then it will die; so it doesn’t want to waste it. In fact, when they have no hive (a swarm of bees), you can walk in them, and they won’t hurt you unless you try to crush them; my daughter did just that this past week and said it was like being in one of the old horror movies about bees attacking, but not one sting! But long pants and shirts do help, and please don’t wear heavy perfume or shampoo. If you smell like a flower, I can tell you they will try to pollinate you — so don’t attract them. Same goes for open containers of sweet beverages, they will try to get into them, and, if they are hidden by the can or bottle, you can accidentally swallow them; then they will sting you. Finally, stay away from a Hive if you find one. That is where they are most protective!
Now, if you do happen to get stung, what can you do? Well, the first thing to do is to scrape the stinger out with a knife, credit card or even your finger nail. If you don’t do so, the stinger will remain in you and continue to pump venom into you. Cold compresses, baking soda and water, or meat tenderizer and water will help take some of the Ouch away. It should only leave a red mark with some swelling. The faster you take the stinger out the smaller the area affected. Some people develop swelling and redness for several inches, others for only a inch or so.
Now, if you are allergic, it is a completely different story. An allergic reaction will have hives (Yes some people say they were named for bee hives) which are red and round raised bumps that can cover the whole body. But more importantly, an allergic reaction can cause your airway to swell and close off. If you know you are allergic, carry an epinephrine shot kit and Benadryl. If you didn’t know you were allergic, take a maximum dose of Benadryl immediately if you start to have trouble breathing, and, in both cases, seek emergency medical care.
I hope this has answered some of your basic questions on bee stings and that you feel a little more comfortable around them. They really are interesting creatures. Please feel free to learn more about them and how they help our world grow!
Your Obedient Servant,
Gary Smith, Jr.