Everybody knows it: bees have stingers and they know how to use them! Naturally, most people ponder stings with a mixture of fear and curiosity. In truth, bees are docile and hardworking by nature. Humans and bees can live together side-by-side quite pleasantly. Here are some interesting facts about bee stings that will probably surprise you.
1. Bees (almost) never sting without a good reason
That is to say, they usually only resort to stinging when they feel that their colony is being threatened. This shouldn’t come as a big surprise when you consider that, unlike wasps, bees die shortly after delivering a sting. The stinger gets stuck and tears off, taking part of the bee’s abdomen with it.
2. Certain bees can’t sting at all
Only the worker bees have stingers. Drones, the males who constitute about 10% of the colony’s population, simply don’t have one.
3. Less than 1% of all people are allergic to bees
In Canada, out of a population of about 35 million people, the average number of deaths caused by allergic reactions to bees is less than 4 per year. You’re more likely to be struck by lightning!
4. No stinger? Not a bee sting!
Many people who have suffered painful stings blame bees, yet fail to find a stinger in their skin. This is because they were more likely stung by a wasp! Wasp stingers, unlike those of bees, are streamlined, and can be pushed in or out of their abdomens as they please.
The stinger gets stuck and tears off. No stinger? Not a bee sting!
5. An allergic reaction is a systemic reaction
After a sting, the area affected may swell a little (or a lot!), turn red, or be itchy for a few days. It’s normal! What isn’t normal is when the body has a reaction in places other than the area around the sting. If this happens, take an injection of epinephrine (EpiPen) and go immediately to the emergency room.
6. Never squeeze a stinger
A bee sting is still attached to its venom sac and the muscles continue to contract, even without the bee being present. When removing the stinger, scrape it with your fingernail to avoid pumping more venom into your skin. Unlike wasps, bees die shortly after delivering a sting.
7. Bee venom has medicinal properties
Apitherapy uses the beneficial medical effects of bee venom to relieve muscle and joint pain. Some experts even claim it can counteract arthritis! Bee stings are a natural part of beekeeping, and shouldn’t be feared. Instead, consider stings as opportunities to improve your technique in preventing the colony from feeling threatened.