View Full Version : Are all stings the same?

03-24-2011, 07:40 AM
I was wondering if I should be tested to see if I am allergic to (Honey) Bee stings. I have been stung by Yellow Jackets, Hornets and Wasps, with no adverse reactions but I don't ever remember being stung by a Honey Bee.
Is all of their venom basically the same?

The Soap Pixie
03-24-2011, 07:42 AM
All bee venom is not the same. I heard this from Marla Spivak and my sister is a living example, allergic to yellow jackets but not honey bees.

A NOTE ON REACTIONS TO STINGS: Some people are allergic to the venom of yellow jackets and others are allergic to bee stings. Both reactions can be life-threatening to some people. If you are particularly sensitive to yellow jacket venom, be extra cautious in late summer and early fall, when the insects are most numerous. Enlist the help of someone not as sensitive, if you need to spray a nest. Bee stings can occur anytime bees are out of their hives, but are far less common than yellow jacket stings. Never attempt to remove or destroy honeybee hives.


If I come across any detailed info on the chemical constituents of their venom and how it is different I will post it.

03-24-2011, 07:55 AM
I believe that it is worth the risk if you have been stung by the rest. It is probably not worth the expense. A honeybee will hurt me about 30 seconds. A yellow jacket will hurt about 8 hrs.

The Soap Pixie
03-24-2011, 07:58 AM

I'm in the same situation. I've been stung numerous times by yellow jackets but I don't believe I've ever been stung by a honeybee, I'm not sure.

I was able to get an epi pen to keep on hand in case anyone in my family is allergic. I imagine this is the least expensive way to go. Do you have a family physician? If so, maybe he/she would give you a prescription for an epi pen to keep on hand just in case.

03-24-2011, 08:27 AM
I plan on speaking with my doctor about a pen, just in case.
I have read that the test are not always reliable either so I'm not sure if that will give me a definitive answer.
Maybe I'm being a little too paranoid but since I am starting my first hive next month...

The Soap Pixie
03-24-2011, 08:36 AM
I don't think you are being paranoid. It is a legitimate concern. Although an allergic reaction to honeybees is rare I'm still conscious of it. Just make sure you know the difference between a real reaction and what appears to be a reaction because, as I was told by my sisters doc, there are side effects to the epipen. I use to think significant swelling, long term itching and pain was an allergy, I didn't realize that was the normal part. :o

03-24-2011, 09:10 AM
The main concern with a allergy is the systemic effects, usually not the local effects. Most of us have seen pictures of someone who's hand has swollen up, this is a local reaction and rarely life threatening. An anaphylactic reaction is a system wide reaction, and can reoccur after the effects of the epi-pen wear off, so if you have to use one get some medical advise/treatment ASAP, as in minutes not hours.

03-24-2011, 09:16 AM
Did you get tested before you ate eggs, fish, milk, etc. I doubt it. I haven't researched the numbers lately so they are not on the top of my head, but I believe you are more likely to have a serius allergic reaction to fish then honey bee stings. My boy ate fish dozens of times and then BAM all of a sudden allergic to fish. I didn't know it but adults can develop allergys to fish, peanuts, eggs, etc at any point in their lives. Don't be paronoid just be aware. Everyone in the general public thinks they are allergic, they aren't...


03-24-2011, 09:19 AM
After an epi-pen is administered medical attention is needed even if the side effects of the reaction do subside. Epinephrine can cause an increase in heart rate that needs to be monitored ASAP.

03-24-2011, 09:37 AM
I have read - I am a newbee, so can not relate an experience - that one should scrap off the stinger immediately because the muscle that comes along with the stinger keeps pumping toxin. The author warned against pinching the stinger with two fingers in an attempt to get a grip on it.

He also said the venom in honey bees is the same as in rattlesnakes.

He said hot bath, or alternating cold and hot compress will help, but again, warned of any scratching or rubbing the effected area as this would encourage circulation of the venom.

I am going to be finding out, here, rather shortly!

Oh, and he said apply smoke to the area to dilute as the smell of venom arouses the other bees.

03-24-2011, 09:46 AM
After an epi-pen is administered medical attention is needed even if the side effects of the reaction do subside. Epinephrine can cause an increase in heart rate that needs to be monitored ASAP.

Quite true, however epinephrine is broken down in the body fairly quickly. I would say the chances of a life threatening complication to the epi would most likely occur within minuets of the injection. This breakdown of the epi is what allows the reaction to reoccur. Basically epi masks or suppresses the reaction, however the histamine mediated factors and the allergen are still present. This is why in the medical emergency kit in my office we have the epi-pen and injectable Diphenhydramine (Benadryl) as it is a antihistamine and has a longer activity, but its onset is not fast enough in an emergency.

03-24-2011, 10:24 AM
I would assume that if you can take a yellow jacket sting with little discomfort you would probably be ok with a honeybee sting.

But one never knows. Get tested if it worrys you.

I took a dozen or so honeybee stings over 2 years with very little pain, swelling, or itching. However, the last one made my arm swell up like a giant sausage for the better part of a week (the itching was insane). I know this was a local reaction (not full blown alergic shock) but after that, I got an EPI pen from my Doc just in case. You can bet that if I ever really need the EPI pen, I will be calling 911 as soon as I regain my senses.

David W.
03-24-2011, 10:38 AM
I was also wondering about the test for my wife.She says years ago she was allergic to bee stings.She wants me to order a suit for her,but I would like to see her be tested first. Where do you have the test done,family doctor or specialist?

03-24-2011, 11:17 AM
Here's an anecdote re. stings. I've never been allergic to anything, and had 100's of A. mellifera stings. Got a new nuc last year and installed it, w/out a sting. A couple days later got a sting (1) on my forearm that got redder and bigger, hot and itchy and moved up my forearm (~ 10" by 4" w). I thought my time of being allergy free, esp. to bees, was tragically up. The medic said it was an infection and after 24 h the antibiotics seemed to make it subside. The next week, stung on the other forearm and had similar, but slightly lesser reaction. Then after that a sting to the belly and a 3" red patch came and went. So, I think it was a reaction to a new (new vendor/source for me) batch of bee/venom vs. 3 separate "infections". I get nailed by YJ's most falls doing field work, and nothing but the pain. I did get an epi-pen from my medic when I started beek, in case I dropped a brood box and got 500 stings, but I doubt I could find it now and it is probably expired. It's probably not a bad thing to have on hand just in case.

And, as has been said, each spp. of hymenoptera, and probably different races of A. m. have a different mix of proteins in their juice that can have different reactions depending on the fine tuning and exposure experience of you immune system. But severely allergic folks are probably sensitized to primordial components of venom common to all the hymenoptera.

03-24-2011, 11:26 AM
Sevenemmm- Just for the record, viper vernom is not at all similar to bee venom (just ask someone who has experienced both - can't say I've had the pleasure). Vipers have a complex cocktail of hemolytic, proteolytic, neurotoxic compounds designed to kill a prey item, then assist in its digestion. Bee's venom is designed to discourage predators from messing with their siblings after their ultimate sacrifice. And, the common ancestors of bees and snakes are separated by 100's of millions of years. That being said, there are those that have systematic allergic reactions to viper venom - then you really have a problem!

03-24-2011, 11:28 AM
Another cool feature of the epi-pens, they contain more epi than is initially injected. That means in an emergency, where you cannot get to medical attention soon enough you can administer an other dose (assuming the reaction reoccurs, which can happen in up to 20% of cases and up to 72 hours later). You have to take the epi pen apart and use the internal syringe. You don't want to inject more than 1mg of epi, which is usually 1 ml, per dose.

Of course there are possible complications with using epinephrine, such as cardiovascular events (heart attack or strokes). My advise is that if you are dying of anaphylactic shock take the epi and the risk, as you have little or nothing to lose.

03-24-2011, 12:23 PM
Here is something else to keep in mind

People with asthma or eczema, conditions involving the immune system, are more at risk of developing allergy to bee venom. The members of the families of beekeepers have a higher incidence of allergy than the rest of the population. It is suggested that this is due to contact with repeated small amounts of bee products from body contact and clothing which “sensitise” the person by provoking the production of IgE.

This link has alot of this kind of info

03-24-2011, 02:30 PM
Always carry your pen to the field. You have be fine for years and then one day you react.
Always carry a cell phone and know the how to to tell EMS where each of your yards are.
If you react, Call 911 and keep your phone on. Don't hang up.

Yes, learn to remove stingers by scraping and not pushing down on the sac. When I first started I made my own veil and worked in a long sleeve shirt. Got 65 stings through my clothes on my first cut out. The stingers stuck in the clothes and not my skin. They stung but no big deal. A year later I got on a sting on my hand without a glove and without thinking reached over and pulled it out. Squeezing the sack in the process. My hand swelled up like a grapefruit and stayed that way for two day.

03-24-2011, 02:54 PM
My wife read this on a self sustaining forum:

If you take a leaf of this weed and chew it and spit on the bee sting it will be gone in no time. We have a lot of these weeds in our yard but I haven't got stung yet to try it.


03-25-2011, 06:56 AM
RiodeLobo- I may be wrong, but I believe "Epi-Pen" delivers it's entire dose the first time. "Twin-ject" has a reserve that can be retrieved and administered. Also the standard dose for an adult is only 0.3 mg of 1:1000 solution.

You are completely right about how fast epi is metabolized. It is fairly quickly and if someone is having a true anaphylactic reaction (which is the only reason epi should ever be used) they still need to continue to seek medical attention. Benadryl is great for minor/routine reactions or if there is a significant delay getting medical help.

From my own experience, I am very allergic to bald face hornets. Although all of my reactions have been severe local (pinky finger nearly triple in size), I still have an Epi-Pen just in cause I get hit in the neck/face. Yellowjackets: pretty allergic, and honey bees: just local/minor. Now watch, this year I’ll develop a major reaction to honeybees…. :eek:

03-25-2011, 07:21 AM
Re EPI pens: If you have one pay attention to the expiration date and try to store it in a dark and some what cool place. Re stings my girls little "love taps" don't bother me at all while a hit from a yellow jacket will itch terribly for a week or more. Maybe its just me!

03-25-2011, 08:35 AM
Glove boxes and center consoles are not good places to keep Epi (at least not in the summer). It gets way to hot.

Bee Bliss
03-25-2011, 08:58 AM
Keep in mind that some high blood pressure medications like Beta blockers inhibit the effectiveness of an epi pen. It can reduce the effectiveness by about 80%. Still use it in an emergency though as it is better than nothing. And get to an ER.

03-25-2011, 09:30 AM
Acebird - you are right on the noodle re. that plant. That is English plantain, or "White Man's Footprints" since it came with and followed English settlers in the New World. I was told long ago that it takes care of virtually any kind of skin irritation that itches, and sho' nuff it really does. I have not tried it on bee stings, but they don't generally bother me enough to seek treatment. But poison ivy, etc. it works pretty well on. I used to also use it to bait box traps for gophers, where it worked equally well.

03-25-2011, 10:40 AM
Plantain works well to stop bleeding, too.

03-25-2011, 11:13 AM
I just read all 3 pages and don't see the cost of a Pen
I went to the Pharmacy the other day and asked about
them ,The girl looked them up and said 100.00 :cry:
I understand fully a 100 is nothing to a Life
I just was a bit shocked figured maybe the crack or meth
Labs must be using them:rolleyes:
I didn't ask about expiration ,but does anyone no how
long they are good
I think dropping a 100 every 6 months Just to throw out
will get Old


The Soap Pixie
03-25-2011, 12:21 PM
All you've ever wanted to know about the epipen:

The pdf in the upper left hand corner is the patient insert that comes with the pen.

We received a new epi-pen last week and it doesn't expire until Nov 2011. (8-9 months).

03-26-2011, 08:11 AM
Benadryl is also good to keep around if you have a reaction and have to use the epi pen make sure you go ahead and take 50mg of Benadryl it will take some time to work but, it is good to go ahead and get some on board too.

Plantain does help with the itching and burning.

03-26-2011, 09:31 AM
All you've ever wanted to know about the epipen:

The pdf in the upper left hand corner is the patient insert that comes with the pen.

We received a new epi-pen last week and it doesn't expire until Nov 2011. (8-9 months).

I got a 2-pack for $60 and it doesnt expire to January 2012. If they were only good to 8 months, I would send it back and ask for a fresher one.

03-26-2011, 02:27 PM
Man this has been a great thread. I've been stung by all sorts of stinging insects including stepping in a yellow jacket nest that resulted in 30+ stings at once, with nothing more than the usual pain from stings.. I recently caught a swarm and got one on my thumb that swelled slightly for a few days.. no big deal. Then the other day I was stung on the bottom of my forearm while working my hive. I most likely emptied the contents of the sac while trying to remove it, but the rest of the night until I went to sleep it was fine. (Up to 9hrs later) Not even a red mark or swelling at the sting. When I woke up for work my forearm had swelled up pretty good and itched like crazy. I was afraid I had finally become allergic to something, but it sounds like it's kinda common even without having an allergy to stings...

03-29-2011, 10:40 AM
another very handy and cheap item to keep in the truck is benedryl spray. Obviously it has nothing to do with a allergy attack but will slow the swelling and itching from a sting.