Bee Stings

Q. Will I get stung if I keep bees?

A. Inevitably, yes. However, when stung, most people have only a minor allergic reaction pain, swelling and itching in the vicinity where stung which will last a few days. Many gradually become more immune to the effects of bee stings. Others gradually become more sensitive. Symptoms of increasing sensitivity include increasing and prolonged pain, swelling and itching and/or itching at locations on the body remote from where stung or whole body itching. Some individuals, as much as 2%-5% of the general population, are highly allergic to stings and may have no forewarning of their sensitivity. When stung, they go into anaphylaxis and can die if medical assistance is not provided quickly enough.

Q. What do I do if I get stung?

A. If stung, do not wave your arms or flail about as your sharp movements will attract more bees to you. Instead, steadily move away from the physical area where you got stung, and quickly scrape the stinger from your skin with your fingernail or a sharp-edged object. Attached to the stinger is a venom sac that will continue to pump venom through the stinger into your skin. By using a scraping motion to remove the stinger, you can avoid injecting yourself with additional venom. Apply a cold compress where you were stung to reduce inflammation. You should discuss your other options with your health care provider.

Q. Why does a honey bee sting?

A. Generally, honey bees are relatively gentle. They are not interested in people or their food or drink (unlike yellow jackets and wasps). Because a honey bee dies once it stings a human or other mammal, stinging typically is a defensive action of last resort. Honey bees will sting if provoked, frightened, get trapped in hair, are being squeezed or crushed or otherwise perceives a threat to the colony.

Q. Why does a honey bee die when it stings?

A. A honey bees stinger is barbed. Once inserted into the skin of a human or other mammal, the stinger cannot be removed by the honey bee.  As she pulls away, her stinger (with venom sac attached) are ripped from her body. Eventually, she will die.

Q. Are Africanized honey bees (AFB s) a problem in the San Francisco Bay Area?

A. No, and it is presently questionable whether they ever will be. The furthest north AFB’s have been found has been in Madera and Mariposa counties.  To see a county by county map within states where AFB’s have been found and to find other important agricultural information, go to USDA’s Map of the spread of Africanized honey bee by year.

Q. What is Apitherapy?

A. Apitherapy is the medicinal use of honey bee products: honey, pollen, propolis, royal jelly, beeswax and the bee venom.