For most of us,
a bee sting isnít a common occurrence, but is highly
memorable when it does occur!
For those who
are curious, or those who care for young children, here
are some details about bees and their stings to avoid
future stings and treat them appropriately.
What is a bee
actually many species of bees, not all of them are
social and not all have the usual sting.
actually donít sting, produce honey, and are effective
at pollinating crops and orchards. However, most of the
captive bees producing honey in Australia are the
introduced European Honey Bees, or Apis mellifera.
bees have a poison sac in their abdomen and an external
stinger. Bees are defensive rather than attackers so
only the hive guards require the ability to sting.
when they sting?
Bees and wasps
all sting by sticking their stinger into their victim
and moving it back and forth in a sawing motion. Wasps,
Bumble Bees and Carpenter bees then pull out their
stinger and go away; Honey bees have a more barbed
stinger and are unable to remove it from humans without
ripping out part of their abdomen. Accordingly, these
bees will die shortly after stinging a person.
Form the poison
sac, venom is squirted into the victim. This can
continue for about 20 minutes so getting the sting out
quickly is important. The venom may actually release a
hormone into the air which attracts other bees and makes
them aggressive so further stings will occur; again,
quick removal of the sting is important.
Bee sting venom
is a clear liquid which is very acidic and has a sharp,
bitter taste. It will dissolve in water and acid, but
not in alcohol.
responds to the sting by flooding the area with blood
fluid to flush out the venom. This fluid is what results
in redness and swelling around the wound. The area
affected will generally be larger with subsequent
adult male would require something like 1500 bee stings
to be life threatening. Most adults will experience a
bit of swelling and discomfort for a couple of days and
then forget about it.
There are 8
active ingredients in the venom, including histamine.
The histamine itself doesnít cause a problem; however,
an allergic person will start producing histamine in
response to the sting and the histamine from the venom
will just add to that total and cause problems.
The venom also
includes melittin which is a very potent
Bees and wasps
have the same venom components, but the proportions
change. In fact, bee stings contains more proteins and
are thus more likely to produce an allergic reaction
than a wasp would.
How to treat
a bee sting
The first step
is to remove the sting as soon as possible. It is
commonly said that it should be scraped out instead of
pulled, but speed is the most important factor Ė leaving
the sting in for more than 15 seconds increases the
severity of the reaction.
Rinse the wound
with water, or wash with soap and water to remove any
Put a cold
compress on the wound to reduce swelling and pain. Even
an ice cube will do.
practical as this also reduces swelling.
At this stage,
get help if a serious reaction is likely or suspected.
If you are stung, tell someone near be straight away in
case you develop serious symptoms.
Donít scratch at
the bite, despite it getting itchy, as that could lead
fashioned home remedies include:
Paste of baking soda
Raw slice of onion
Meat tenderiser powder
Tash Hughes is a
Microbiologist and the owner of
Word Constructions. She is available to solve all
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