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How 'Bout Them Bees?
HOW 'BOUT THEM BEES? That was the subject line on the e-mail that I was looking at this past Thursday afternoon. It came from the young man who was so interested in my garden just a month ago. He knew that there was a bee club meeting on Friday and wanted to know the time and place. I sent him the information and shortly thereafter got a reply that he couldn't make it. I haven't forgotten what it's like to have two small children and a pregnant wife, so I let him know that I completely understood. Little did I know that subject line would define my weekend.
The meeting went well on Friday evening and I got a lot of good information so I decided to head into one of the hives on Sunday morning. I suited up like I normally do: long sleeve shirt, thin garden gloves (I have thicker gloves just for beekeepers, but find them bulky and restraining), hat, veil and shorts (it gets hot in Florida and I've never had an issue wearing shorts).
With the smoker going I pulled off the top cover. As has been the case many times before the bees were calm and allowed me to work without being too upset about it. I checked out the top super without incident, pulled it off and set it aside. Then, I started pulling frames out of the brood box. Now, I must say that the weather was perfect. It was hot and there wasn't a cloud to be seen. Up until this point the bees had been quite accommodating. That's why I was totally surprised when I suddenly found that about six of the little critters had attached themselves to my right hand and were stinging me through the thin gloves. I've been stung before and I know not to panic when it happens, but the stings felt different this time, more painful if that's possible. I managed to calmly set the frame down and back away from the hive. I pulled the glove off and looked to see if I could find any of the stingers to scratch them out. My hand was visibly shaking at this point and it was quite painful. Not wanting to experience getting stung in the hands again I made my way to the shed to put on my other gloves.
After putting on the thicker gloves I walked up to the hive and immediately got a sting on the back of my right leg. It was obvious that the bees were clearly agitated so I took the opportunity to close up the hive and leave them alone. I ended up with one more sting on my right ankle before it was over and, to be honest, I was glad it was over.
I put all of my equipment away and headed inside. I had been sweating quite a bit so I told my wife that I was going to jump in the shower. It was while I was in the shower that I realized that something was definitely wrong. The first thing I noticed was that my lips were starting to go numb. Then, I noticed that my upper torso had broken out in small hives. I looked at my arms and noticed that they were also broken out, but instead of the blotchy looking hives that I had on my torso they were just red pinpoints that went up and down both arms. Needless to say, I rinsed off and got out of the shower.
My wife knows that I am not a fan of going to the doctor, especially after the $1000.00 nose bleed that I recently posted about, so she immediately knew something was out of the ordinary when I rushed into the dining room wearing only a pair of shorts and told her that she needed to take me to the doctor right away. At this point my tongue had started to swell up and the words didn't come out quite right. After taking a look at the hives all over my body she jumped up and started looking for the car keys. I wouldn't say that I panicked, but I was definitely concerned at this point. I pushed away thoughts of my throat closing up and we both made a hasty trip to the car.
Thankfully, there is a critical care clinic only five miles away from my house. By the time we got there I was swelling up everywhere. I was only stung on the right side of my body, but even my left side was feeling the effects. I couldn't get my wedding ring off, my lips were completely numb, my tongue was visibly swollen and it was red all around my nose and up between my eyes. Even the top of my bald head was starting to show signs of swelling and my scalp was itching me to death.
The clinic took care of me and one shot of steroids seemed to calm everything down. Unfortunately, the doctor had to cut my wedding ring off. That really stinks. I've been wearing it for going on twenty-eight years now. My right hand swelled up so much that I could hardly use it most of the day, but other than that everything went back to normal pretty quickly. Now, only two days later, even my hand is back to normal.
Now I'm assessing the situation and trying to learn from it. The biggest takeaway is that I will be wearing full gear the next time I go into the hive. I have a full suit, but have stayed away from it because it can be so hot. Considering the alternative I think I'll take heat over a near death experience.
I can't explain why I never had a reaction before. I've been stung quite a few times while messing with the hives, although I've never gotten so many at once. Maybe it was because I got so many, or maybe because they were mostly concentrated in one location on my body. I just don't know.
I also need to step back and ask myself if I want to move away from this hobby all together. I'm sure there are other beekeepers who have had a reaction to bee stings. Maybe this will never happen again. Or maybe it will. It could be that I can handle one or two stings and not have any reaction at all. But do I really want to take that chance?
HOW 'BOUT THEM BEES? This one will take some thinking.
Last edited: Mon Aug 18, 2014 7:12 pm
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I have no confident answers, but I find the content interesting... I hope you get more comments ...
Glad to hear you are better now EG.
Glad you are OK now. That will definitely take a little research to determine what to consider. Good luck and peace.