Have you ever been stung by a bee? I think I have only been stung once when I was about 10 years old. I still remember it clearly as if it was yesterday. I was walking in the grass in my lovely red roman sandals at school and as I lifted by foot to walk a bee flew under my toes and as I stepped it stung me. It gave me a huge fright and man did it sting! I didn't get a reaction and I don't even remember how I got the sting out but from then on I was scared of bees and getting stung again.
Of course, after meeting Martin I have grown a new appreciation for bees and I am now comforted by the fact that a honey bee will rarely sting when it is away from its hive foraging for nectar or pollen. The only reason a bee would sting someone is if they stepped on it or handled it roughly. Bees will, however, attack intruders who are disturbing their hive. Hence Martin has had hundreds of stings! When a bee stings it also releases an ‘alarm pheromone’ to signal to other bees in the hive to attack. This is one of the reasons why beekeepers use smokers when they are working hives, it covers up the alarm pheromones. Because the worker bees release the alarm pheromone when threatened Martin is very careful not to crush or harm the bees when harvesting honey.
Avoiding a Sting!
So my advice to you would be - don’t wave your arms around when a bee comes near you, just sit there quietly and still and when it realizes you are not a flower it will move on. And if you are going to look into a beehive always wear a suit!
Here are some interesting facts about bees and their stings
- Bees are the only insect with a strongly barbed sting
- As the sting lodges into the victim’s skin, it tears loose from the bee’s abdomen and the bee die within minutes
- The female bees (the queen and the worker bees) are the only ones that sting
- The queen’s stinger is smooth so can, therefore, sting over and over (but don’t worry she never leaves the hive unless she is swarming to find a new home)
- A swarm of bees is not aggressive, they are just looking for a new home and have no honey or young to defend
- The large drone bees do not have stingers
- A bee sting consists of three parts – a stylus and two barbed sides
The next blog will give you some tips on what to do if you are stung.