Copyright: Halifax and District Beekeepers Association.                          Rules of the Association                                                 Last updated: 20th December 2018

Halifax and District Beekeepers Association

  Stings, Allergic Reactions and Anaphylaxis

We all know the old adage; “If bees didn’t sting, everyone would keep them.”

It is no surprise therefore that if you keep bees you will get stung from time to time.

The worker bee’s stinging organ is a sharp pointed tube connected to a venom sac and the venom sac is surrounded by 2 muscles which act like a pump to force the venom into the flesh of the victim.

Because the stinging tube is barbed, the bee is unable to withdraw it from human skin and this causes the whole mechanism to be torn from her abdomen, thereby leaving the muscles to continue pumping venom into the victim after the bee has departed.

It is for this reason that no attempt should be made to remove the sting by gripping it between thumb and finger, as this will only serve to squeeze the venom sac and pump more venom into the wound.

To avoid this, stings are most effectively removed by a scraping action using a sharp edged object such as a finger nail or credit card.

In the event that you get stung whilst attending to your bees, it is a good idea to smoke the sting immediately to prevent the pheromone in the venom from summoning her sisters to reinforce the attack! Also, it is always beneficial to apply a antihistamine cream to the area surrounding the sting at the first opportunity.

Everybody has a different allergic response to bee stings, but whatever your reaction, it is worth being aware of the following papers produced by the British Society for Allergy and Clinical Immunology (BSACI):

Insect Sting Allergy - The Facts

Anaphylaxis - Severe Allegic Reaction

Wasp / Bee Venom Specific Immunotherapy

Injection Immunotherapy Patient Information

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