I have been stung by wasps on numerous occasions and I have a vague memory of being stung by a bumble bee, but I have no recollection of ever being stung by a honeybee.  The honeybee is the one that dies when it stings with the wasp and the bumble having the ability to sting again and again.  The wasp’s sting is its vital tool used repeatidly all day every day as a method to bring home the daily food for the cute little baby wasps.  The honeybee leaves behind its sting as a pumping sack of venom leaving the bee lacking in a little part of itself that will lead to its death shortly after.  It is rare, but some people are highly allergic to bee stings.  Even for most people who are not allergic I have read that it will take just over two hundred stings to kill a man, or woman.

one of my honeybee’s sting under the dusty old microscope

the venom sac

Beekeepers are said to develop a gradual immunity to the swelling reaction of stings with some not showing any reaction at all.  I have seen this myself as I watched another beekeeper casually remark that the bees have been stinging him a few times on the hands, this was just after he had been giving us some instruction and teaching through which he showed no sign whatsoever that he was being stabbed by kamikaze bees.  However, sometimes, the reverse can happen and a beekeeper can develop the reverse of immunity and two of these people I met at the beekeeping exam.

After the theory exam we moved to Baron O’Neill’s residence to the site of the association apiary.  The chief examiner for the practical exam began proceedings by enquiring if any of us had a bee allergy.  No-one put up their hands or spoke.  Then he informed us that he was allergic and so was the association member who had opened up and prepared the apiary for the exam, and both carried epipens.  The chief examiner told us that he had only developed this allergy in recent times after a very bad reaction to a sting on the neck.  He then added that he was stung a while ago on the hand and seemed to have no reaction at all.  Such is the mystery of the human immune system.  The older gentleman who had opened up the apiary was a different matter entirely.

In the nervous moments before we were called out to the assessors, he told a handful of us his story.  He used to have many hives and had decades of experience under his belt.  Having been stung hundreds of times over the years he had shown no signs of allergy at all.  Then one day a bee got under his viel and stung him on the temple.  After 2 hours of rash, itching and difficulty breathing he bowed to his wife’s advice and then went to hospital where they ‘sorted everything out’.  At the time he thought nothing of the incident and carried on as normal until his next sting when it was worse, then the next after that which was worse again.  There was no other option be to give away all his hives (well over a dozen of them) to suitable and caring homes.  This caused us a little confusion as we suspected he still kept bees.  “Ah yes” he replied, “Then the spring came and I felt like a drug addict”.  He now tends his bees with his son in law and sets out his epipen in a handy spot while inspecting hives.  He has been told that he has thirty seconds to administer the injection once he is stung. This apparently has happened since he ‘gave up’ beekeeping.  When he was last stung he swiftly administered the adrenalin and has no recollection of his trip from the bees to hospital.

In the back of my mind, and sometimes at the front, have wondered if I am allergic to bees, and yesterday I got my answer. I was standing in the garage doing a little DIY, hammering nails and that sort of thing, when I felt a little sting on my upper leg.  As it began to feel a bit more stingy I scratched it and wondered what could have stung me.  A closer inspection of the area revealed a pea sized lump that felt very much like a incredibly sore spot.  But, I was in the garage and nowhere near the bees?  The next day revealed that it probably was a bee.

Today I hammered together a bracket and mounted it outside on the woodshed.  It was for a hive.  It is not an ideal location to keep bees as it is not suitable for inspection and it would bring bees near to our everyday coming and going in the garden.  However, it is a perfect location to catch bees.  I don’t want to just keep bees, I want to try and catch them too.  When bees swarm they send out scouts for miles around to find a new home.  A bait hive set up with a bit of old comb and a drop of lemongrass oil is the equivalent of the front page of property pal.  As I set up the bait hive a bee wandered into the garage, then another, then another.  The old comb still had a cell or two of honey and the bees knew it.  This was why I had been stung in the garage; one of them had been attracted to the old bit of comb.  Today I set up the bait hive and my bees found it and seem to have been robbing it of the last drops of honey all evening.  I am sure they will leave it clean and tidy for potential new tenants.  It is a remote possibility to catch a swarm but it is still a possibility and it does happen, so fingers crossed.

the bait hive mounted with a view and ready to catch the morning sun.