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An immediate sharp burning pain, a red mark at the site, swelling and itching; honey bee stings are no fun.

It could be worse, other stinging insects such as wasp and hornets have the ability for an individual insect to sting multiple times.  A honey bee's stinger is unique because it has barbs which secure the stinger into its target and not allow it to be removed easily - thus as a honey bee, you can only sting once!

To put bee stings in perspective however, the average adult can handle up to 10 stings per pound of body weight!

Here is what you need to know about the stinger...

  • The honey bee stinger is made up of three parts.  One stabilizing shaft called a stylus, and two barbed shafts called lancets.  The three parts together create a hollow that venom can travel through.  The two lancets act like a serraded blades to continue the plunge deeper and deeper (even as the stinger is removed from the bee, thanks to muscles attached to the venom sac) over time.
  • DO NOT pinch or squeeze the stinger to get it out.  The only part that you will be able to grab is the venom sac and any pressure will just force more venom into your body.  It is best to scrape the stinger out, opposite direction it was plunged in.
  • An exposed stinger will release alarm pheromone.  Stinging will release an alarm pheromone, which if other honey bees are able to pick up on, will show them exactly where their target is.  Soap and water or covering it up with a strong smell like smoke, are the best ways to keep yourself safe from further stings. 

The reaction...

  • Swelling, redness and itch are all common reactions to honey bee stings.
  • Everyone will have a different level of reaction and combination of symptoms.  Immediate symptoms of pain can last up to 2 hours and long term symptoms can take up to seven days to clear.
  • Swelling can be alarming, but it is well within normal to swell up to two major joints away from the sting site.  If swelling proceeds beyond that, or if there are red lines spreading from the sting site, dizziness, nasua, difficulty breathing or hives, seek medical attention.
  • Bees will target your eyes if they can so don't make it easy for them.  When around honey bees, remove your sunglasses as they look like big bullseyes to honey bees.  They may also prefer to sting your face as they track their targets through the carbon dioxide they emit (your breath).
  • It is not the first time that you are stung by a honey bee that you need to be worried about, its the second.  You are not born with a honey bee venom allergy, it must be developed.  
  • Stinging insects all have their own unique venom 'cocktail'.  Allergies to yellow jacket venom dont automatically transform into honey bee venom allergies.
  • Quick jerky movements are attractive to an aggressive bee.  Remain calm and confident and move smoothly and slowly.  

So if you do get stung, stay calm, protect yourself, close your mouth and eyes and get yourself away or indoors.

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