I'm sure that by now you've latched on to the "vigorous, but smiling, nods" that you're getting from "the world over." Welcome!! to the world-wide group of people who aren't always sure what they're doing but who love to do it anyway. (Actually, that's not very true...) A few not-so idle thoughts ...
First, you can never be entirely sure what a colony of honeybees will do, at any particular time on any particular day, although if you patiently observe them long enough you'll certainly observe useful-to-you trends. Just remember that the observed behavior of the hive is not "deterministic." You have some influence, of course, upon what they're doing, but that influence is not and never will be complete. There's always going to be ... no, I won't call it an element of "chance" but rather an element of "nature" ... in whatever happens; or doesn't. Your influences, as the self-appointed stewards of these hives, are only one influence among many. (Will we humans ever 'understand' the honeybee? No.)
Second, insofar as personal protection is concerned, this is not the moment for "macho." Just try to find your personal comfort-zone. As for me, over time I have settled on (a-l-w-a-y-s!!) having a veil over my head and disposable not-so-thin rubber gloves on my hands. The "veil" in question was the cheapest (black) one they had, set on an old but very comfortable straw hat; but, it works fine. The gloves are mainly because almost everything in a hive is sticky, and you just can't get it off your skin. Shorts and a long-sleeve T-shirt usually work fine, but I wear that only because it "usually works fine." I'm not macho. I've got the technology and I'm not afraid to use it. If I'm doing something that's very sticky, a bee-suit is also ... coveralls! (Go ahead, wipe it on your suit, then throw the whole thing into the wash with a blob of bleach.)
Third, like any sensible mammal, I strive to avoid bee stings! First, I try to conduct myself around the hives in a manner that doesn't unnecessarily provoke defensive behavior... and that nearly always works. (When it doesn't, I want to know why not.) Second, I react as any sensible medieval knight would to an excessive number of stings: I withdraw, and if I really need to get the job done now, I suit up. If I anticipate trouble (or sticky...), no question, I suit up first. (The suit is not actually "a suit of armor," though.)
All of the water-spray that we use has a stout dose of peppermint-oil in it. That does seem to confuse the alarm-pheromone if promptly sprayed onto any stings that do occur, and water-spray gives them the sense that "it's raining." "Because it usually works fine," it's a very fine substitute for smoke. (Although, if ever a situation presented itself where smoke might work better, "smoke it is!")
In the short time that I've had my bees I've learned to sense when they're getting irritated. I have worked them with smoke and without and I keep the without times to a quick change of syrup or a really fast look at some center frames to make sure I have eggs.
I can always tell when I do smoke them they are significantly more docile and those are the times that I am doing a longer more in depth search of the hive. I know when it's time to add a little more smoke because they start to sound different. The buzz goes from a low pitched dull buzz to a high pitched roar as they smoke starts to wear off. I've also noticed that they have been getting more and more aggressive as they build up more and more honey. Just as a testament to the smoke, you say you've been stung 8 times since early May when you installed them. I've had my bees for the exact same amount of time and have only been stung once. And that was when I installed them and one flew up my pant leg. I also work my bees in shorts.
When you get stung, and the next day the area is hot and swollen, it's almost certainly a staph infection. This is a lot more common than you would think. Allergic reaction=gets better over 24h. Staph infection=gets worse over 24h.
For a staph infection, you need to see a doctor and get antibiotics. This is why I wear a full bee suit. Stings hurt, and staph infections are expensive.
Why Do Bee Stings Hurt?
One of the characteristic properties of defensive venom is its pain-producing properties; anybody that has been stung by a bee knows this feeling well. There are three toxic effects of bee venom:
· Neurotoxic: paralysis of the local nervous system
· Hemorrhagic: increased permeability of the blood capillaries
· Hemolytic: destruction of red blood cells
The main components of bee venom that lead to pain are:
· Melittin: this peptide is a powerful anti-inflammatory agent. It binds to red blood cells and causes the release of hemoglobin into the blood plasma.
· A-Hyaluronidase: this enzyme breaks down cell components and allows toxin from the venom to spread
· Phospholipase-A: this enzyme causes the breakdown of cells and disrutps many important biochemical reactions. This is the potential cause of the actual pain experienced after a sting
Although honey bee and bumble bee venoms are not identical, many of the allergens of the venom are the same and cause similar reactions.
Zone 5a, Practicing non-intervention beekeeping
I'm with Acebird on this one. If I get stung on the hand, the sting is a non-issue in the immediate time-frame, but the next day it is swollen and itchy and very frustrating, but never has it been a staph infection. Not saying that it can't happen, but many people have the same allergic type reaction that is worse over the two days after a sting.
Somebody may have mentioned this but I didnt see it anywhere. I think its a good possibility your bees could be getting robbed. If you are in a dearth right now and you are using a Boardman Feeder on the front its a good possibility. Ive got hives that are pretty gentle but last summer when the robbing got bad some of best tempered hives would light anything up that even got within 30 yards of them. I was confused about this aggression at first, but I figured it out. If they are getting robbed they will be mean. Also when the feeder is empty is when they will be the meanest when they are getting robbed because the robbers are not robbing the sugar when the feeder is empty they will rob the honey. Get you a hive top feeder. I use the ones from Mann Lake run you a bead of silicon around the screen where it meets the plastic in the Mann Lake Hive top feeder and it will keep the bees from getting in the syrup area when the feeder gets low. Plus it holds like 4 gallons so you can feed and it lasts awhile.
It seems to me that when its hot outside my bees are more gentle. But when there is a dearth now that is a different story. When its 50 degrees and cloudy is when you dont want to pop the top. LOL. Some of the other folks were right when they said the bigger the hive gets the more aggressive they are. Its that way with every hive Ive ever had.
Also on the bee stings swelling you up I think its pretty normal They swell me up too. Sometimes they swell me up bad especially if they get me in the face. Ive never had breathing problems or stuff like that but sometimes they puff me up pretty good. I also found out that certain medications and bee stings dont mix well. Some things are like Ibuprofin and some Blood Pressure medicines are not good to mix with bee stings. I was taking some blood pressure meds when I was getting swelled up bad and I quit taking the BP medication and the next time I got stung it was not nearly as bad.
I didnt use a smoker when I first started keeping bees, but the first Spring after my hives got pretty big I decided I needed to use one. Next Spring you will find out you need that smoker. If that hive is a little hot now next year you will want that smoker. That smoker will wind up being your best friend. Plus you will learn to handle the bees more gentle and move smoothly and slowly. I dont think your bees are that mean. If I worked my bees in shorts I would get tore up. I wear a full suit all the time I dont care if its 100 degrees.
Last edited by iivydriff; 07-05-2012 at 03:52 PM.
You could indeed have a local infection, and your immune system is simply handling it, but don't take my word for it:
A reader asks (about a bee or wasp sting): “How do I know if it’s infected and that I need antibiotics?”
As you can see from the previous post, a bee or wasp sting can cause a skin reaction with redness, swelling, itching, and pain. This is very similar to the appearance of skin that is inflamed by a bacterial infection - a condition sometimes referred to as cellulitis. A wasp sting may also cause blistering with or without "brawny" swelling, which is when the skin feels thickened, warm, and bumpy to the touch. Either a sting or an infection can cause lymph nodes ("glands") that drain the region to become swollen and tender.
So, the determination of an infection becomes a judgment call. Infection following a sting usually develops 48 to 72 hours after the sting, so if someone has suffered a sting, appears to be improving, then has his or her condition deteriorate, infection should be suspected. Fever can be present with a sting or an infection, but is more common with an infection. If the area of skin initially affected by the skin seems to be stable for a few days, then begins to spread, particularly if there is any reddish streaking traveling up an arm or leg towards the heart, increasing skin warmth, or increasing skin tenderness, that may indicate an infection. If any liquid leaks from the site of the sting, particularly if it appears cloudy or thickened, like pus, one should suspect an infection. If the wound develops a crunchy or "Rice Krispies" feel to it, that is a medical emergency, because it may represent the formation of gas from a severe infection.
If an infection is diagnosed or highly suspected, the treating medical professional will usually recommend antibiotics. Sometimes, it is impossible to determine if the skin reaction represents the effects of the venom or an infection that has subsequently developed. In that case, your doctor may decide to treat you both for the toxic-allergic component, as well as for a possible infection. Finally, always remember to keep your immunization against tetanus up to date.
I forgot to ask how big is your entrance? If you have a boardman feeder and your entrance is wide open and there are other bees somewhere nearby I would say they are getting robbed. Even as hot as it is right now I have entrance reducers on my hives with only the 4.5 inch x 3/8 entrance and I dont have screen bottom boards. I learned my lesson on Robbing. I give them ventilation by cutting a slot in the inner cover rim. I also put a screen over that. Sometimes I will put a shim between the inner cover and lid to give them more ventilation.
I would be concerned with infection it you are always sick, catch colds easily or have a weakened immune system at the time of the sting. If you work your hives, sample honey and or lick your fingers, maybe eat some dirt once in a while and remain healthy I wouldn't worry about infection.
Zone 5a, Practicing non-intervention beekeeping
A few quick tips for avoiding stings:
- You cannot completely avoid getting stung. If you do get stung, don't slap at it and don't drop what you're holding. Don't run. (Basically, resist your first three primal instincts.) If a bee lands on you, don't assume that you're about to be stung and, whatever you do, don't slap at it. Spray a sting-site promptly with peppermint water. Remove the stinger with your thumbnail or a dull blade. (But also be prepared for the very real possibility that a honeybee might well "simply land on you," and after a few moments, fly away again. It's a wonderful experience. Try to be open to those moments.)
- That's what veils are for. That's what gloves are for (as well as for the sticky-stuff). If you couldn't stand to get stung there, or simply don't ever want to be, protect it. (One of the more disconcerting defensive mechanisms of bees is to "throw themselves at you," especially at your face, and as for me, I'll "opt out" of that one every time, please.)
- Avoid crushing bees. Look before you put your hands anywhere. Slide them into place, anyplace you intend to put them.
- Move with an easy, gentle motion, considering what you're about to do before you do it. Be deliberate and purposeful.
- A bee-brush is really a very useful tool to have. With it, you can gently and harmlessly brush bees out of the way, "persuade" them to move out of the way when you're putting a bar in place, and so on. Be patient. I said, be patient. No, really. Be patient.
- If you're using a top-bar hive, we have noticed a definite correlation between the number of openings between top-bars and the overall defensiveness of the hive. Keep that number to a minimum. Keep the total size of the one working-opening small. Don't treat empty bars differently from full ones.
- As you continue to work with your bees, you will find, not only your "comfort zone," but also surprises. You'll find what works for you and what doesn't. Go with that, without apology. When you "feel" prepared to work, you "are" prepared to work, and I personally think that the bees can sense that. (It does make a certain amount of intuitive sense to me that they would, and should.)
- Ummm... there are .... thousands of em! ... Uh huh. There most-certainly are. Don't let that freak you out. (To a certain extent, remember Alfred Hitchcock's acting advice to Ingrid Bergman: "Ingrid, fake it.")
You may want to read up a little more about bee stings.
"When to see a doctor
In most cases, bee stings don't require a visit to your doctor."
Also, in your first post you say:
I agree with Acebird and SanteFeBeek. Acebird has given you some good info on the subject.
While a person with an uncompromised immune system may get a small local infection due to the enzyme that breaks down the cells in the immediate vicinity (not unlike a chigger bite) and some of the bacteria inhabiting that infection are almost certainly of the staphylococcus genus, it does not mean that it is a 'staph infection' in general parlance. A zit is technically a 'staph infection' but when you say 'staph infection' it generally means an staphylococcus aureus infection up to and including death, like the one my mother got when in the hospital giving birth to me.
I never wear gloves and I get stung hundreds of times per year. Hot swollen and itchy is about as bad as it gets unless you're scratching it open and making it worse.
Solomon Parker, Parker Farms, parkerfarms.biz/
11 Years Treatment-Free, ~25 Colonies
We, the Ancient and Honorable Fraternity of the Veterans of Many Stings do affirm:
On sutch Rare Occasssion as a Reasonable and Prudent Person be stung by that cleanest of inseckts, the Honee Bee,
the place where sutch Sting shall occur will oft become Ruddy of hue and and grow Swollen.
It is the Common Way of Stings.
It be no matter of Grave Concern.
This is our Testimony as Stewards of the Hive (Verily!)
Believe what thou wishest!
~o~ ~o~ ~O~ ~o~ ~o~
There is a simple explanation for the comments of the gentleman (gentlewoman?) from New Mexico:
He hasn't been stung much.
Either that, or the person has an unusual response to bee stings.
Stings very often swell and turn red.
Infections can happen in beekeeping, just as they can in knitting.
And about as often.
Don't let it concern you.
Instead, my advice is:
Enjoy your bees.
("Wait!" qouth the Bird of One Spot, "Is it a European Honee Bee, or an African Honee Bee? What is its Air Speed Velocity?"....)
Lol, Beregondo - I want some of what u r smoking!
WAIT! It's BEES! Ok - got that already!
Can a "girl" join that fraternity???
Zone 7b ~ Central Arkansas
8fr medium equipment
Heck yeah she can.
Especially if she brings the bees and rolling papers!
Color me in!
Zone 7b ~ Central Arkansas
8fr medium equipment