Tag Archive | sting

The Epipen Dilemma

August 19, 2014



The epipen is a stick of adrenaline, literally.  If you find yourself reacting badly to a sting, like throat closing, unable to breath – then you stick one of these into your thigh, which releases adrenaline into your system and makes your heart race, which somehow counteracts the reaction and can save your life.  Every beekeeper should have one around the house, if not for themselves, then for visitors.  It is lifesaving insurance.

Two seasons and six hives later I finally decided, or rather remembered to call my doctor and make an appointment to get an epipen prescription.  We recently had dinner with friends, one of who was a member of the actual team that developed the epipen.  He asked about the bees and my husband relayed my large poofy reactions to the stings.  I’m not deathly allergic, but I do swell considerably.  In no uncertain terms, he said I needed to get an epipen IMMEDIATELY, and followed with horrible stories of people who died because they disregarded their reactions and symptoms to stings.

I met with my doctor, and after answering the standard questions – “how’d you get into  beekeeping?”, “what do you do with your honey?”, and so on – my prescription was called in and I was warned – “they’re pretty expensive”.  Really?  No one told me they’d be very expensive.

Next stop…the pharmacist.  I asked “how expensive are they?”, and his response – “they’re expensive as hell!”.  For two (yes, they only come in two packs) epipens that I hope I will never have to use…ever…they cost $400.  I just about choked on my own tongue.  How do you make a decision like that?  Whether to take the risk or spend $400?  Even $200 for one is insane, yikes!  But the alternative is even worse.  Decisions, decisions.

Luckily, insurance did cover them, so my decision was easy.  $30 later, me and my epipens were heading home.  What if insurance didn’t cover it?  How many beekeepers opt NOT to purchase them because they’re so expensive and they don’t have insurance to cover them?  A vast dilemma I’m sure, and something that’s easily dismissed until time of need.

In anycase, I hope this little experience sheds some light on yet another side of beekeeping that many may not know about or consider.  We hear about near and final fatalities from bee stings all the time, and I for one, take risks and get stung regularly, thinking I’ll always bee fine – just war wounds, part of being a beekeeper.  But I confess that having the epipens does offer some comfort, knowing that my husband, my family, my friends, myself – we’re all safer now because I have two epipens in my bathroom drawer.  I hope never to have to use one, but they’re there if the need arises.

Little SOBees

The girls and I had a little spat the other night. They say that when a bee stings, you are to remain calm. Bees get very excited by sudden movements. Use your hive tool to gently scrape the stinger from your skin. This prevents the pheromones from being released. Then smoke the area where you were stung to mask any pheromones that have been released. When pheromones are released, other bees are alerted that an attacker is threatening their hive, and everyone is called out immediately to participate in the sting fest.

Honey bees sting for one reason…that is to protect their hive. That’s why swarms are so docile, they have no hive to protect. And it is true that a honeybee will sting only once, and then will die.

Up to this point, I have not been stung. I knew the time would come, but it’s not something you’re ever prepared for. One evening I went up to change the feeder buckets. Never have I worn gear to change feeder buckets. Green Hive 1 is a nice gentle hive. They don’t pay much attention. I get in, do my business, and get out. It’s all good. But over the last 2 weeks, I noticed growing irritability in Yellow Hive 2 (YH2). Perhaps they’re still scarred by memories of dead bee parts hanging out from between the boxes after one of my recent inspections. Perhaps they recall spending 2 days walking the sides in attempt to scrape off the remains. Whatever it was, they wasted no time buzzing into my hair and onto my face. I felt one, two, three, maybe four stings across the bottom of my face. Then a shot of pain on top of my head.

There was no warning, and there was certainly no remaining calm or gentle removal of stings from my skin. Feeder buckets dropped. I was dancing the honey bee jive baby! Hands swatting through my hair and feet running and jumping into the neighbors’ pine trees.

When the excitement was over, I walked down to the patio where the hubster was pushing some heavy, loud gas-powered device. My hair was disheveled, my chin was puffy and my head was sore. I had been told by the bees.

I knew it would happen, I was now a real beekeeper. The stings died down pretty fast. What hurt more were my feelings. My girls turned on me. They told me to get out, be gone. Didn’t they realize I lose sleep at night worrying about them? I worry about them swarming off and leaving me. I listen to YouTube round the clock so I’ll know how to take the best care of them. And I haven’t even gotten any honey yet. I felt angry, betrayed. For a short time, they weren’t my Boo Bees. They were “those little SOBees”.

I went back up, this time in full upper gear, to finish feeding the little ingrates. They began buzzing around again, but this time I was in charge.

Last night I walked up to fill the PVC ant cups. Again,YH2 started buzzing at me. I read that bee temperaments are driven by the queen, as is pretty much everything in a hive. That replacing the queen with a gentler new queen can help settle their little bee butts down. I won’t be replacing any queens. I doubt I could find her if I wanted to. I will, however, take heed and dress a little more appropriately for work around the hive. At the very least, I’ll wear a hat.