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Help put death by bees in perspective!

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As a backyard beekeeper I am constantly question by people that think keeping honeybees is dangerous because one of my neighbors might be stung and die. Well I thought I might do a little research about deaths caused by insects.

Number of deaths per year by stinging insects (bees, wasps, hornets, bumble bees and ants): 90-100

Number of deaths by mosquitoes infected with West Nile virus: In 2003 in the US there were 262 and 284 in 2002.
That does not include the other mosquito born diseases that are in the US.

Please add other statistics that you can find to this thread. Don't forget to add the link or source reference.
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Here's a Bee-L posting on the topic I
wrote back in July:

Oh Death, Where Is Thy Sting? (Crestline, OH)
In hopes of assisting Mr. Dunkin with his municipal
problem, let me reveal part of an article that I am
not yet done writing on "suburban beekeeping".

Can someone please forward or snail-mail this to him?

The section that I call "Oh Death, Where Is Thy Sting?"
may be of interest. This basic question has remained
unanswered since the earliest Bibles were being copied
by monks (I Corinthians 15:55).

The reason that the question remains unanswered is that
it is hard to find the sting in death, as there are very
few deaths from stings.

In 2000 (the most recent year for which data has been
reported to the World Health Organization) 54 people
died in the USA due to encounters" with ANY type of
stinging insect (wasps, bees, hornets, yellowjackets...).
This number is sure to include some number of deaths due
to insects other than bees, and can also be assumed to
include a certain number of deaths from "Africanized" Bees,
something that is expected to never become an issue in Ohio
by those who do AHB research.

In Canada, 2 people died in 2000.
Canada has no "Africanized" Bees, but has about the same
percentage of their population keeping bees in suburban
and urban areas as in the USA. Canada is thereby a better
model than the USA for how "risky" bees are if one wants to
eliminate the "Africanized" bee factor, which would be
reasonable for places like Ohio.

When you look at mortality versus population, the odds of
dying from the sting of any/all insects in any one year are:

USA - 1 in 5,555,556
Canada - 1 in 16,666,667

In contrast, there are many many other things that are much
more dangerous and kill many more people every year. Things
that are much more within the legitimate regulatory grasp of
a municipality than bees, and things that can be controlled
by a municipality. Lots of things kill more many people.

In the USA:

What Killed Deaths Odds of
People in 2000 1 in
----------------- ------- ---------
Pedestrian Hit By:
Passenger Vehicle 3101 93,633
Truck/Bus 295 990,099
Train 449 649,351
Stairways 1307 222,222
Slip/Trip On Level 565 515,464
Fall Involving Bed 450 649,351

How many times
more risk of death
What than from stings in USA?
----------------- ------------------------
Pedestrian Hit By:
Passenger Vehicle 59.3
Truck/Bus 5.6
Train 8.6
Stairways 25.0
Slip/Trip On Level 10.8
Fall Involving Bed 8.6

In Canada:
Times More
Died In Odds Risky Than
2000 1 in Stings?
------- --------- ---------
Pedestrian Hit By:
Passenger Vehicle 209 154,321 108.0
Truck/Bus 28 1,162,791 14.3
Train 32 1,010,101 16.5
Stairways 236 136,612 122.0
Slip/Trip On Level 85 380,228 43.8
Fall Involving Bed 62 520,833 32.0

So, if the town fathers want to ban something to protect
those who are unable to protect themselves, they need to
start with a ban on walking down the street, all passenger
vehicles, all stairways, and all walking on level surfaces.

Note that the bus is much safer, so everyone will have to
take the bus everywhere, even if the journey would only be
a few steps. Busses can't go up stairways very well, so
they will also have to mandate elevators for all multi-story

When they are done with that, the next logical item to
ban would be either beds or trains. (No idea what to
do about beds ON trains, but one might jump to the
conclusion that they would be much more risky than
either one alone.)

Since all the items listed above are common in nearly every
town, they are a much more serious risk to the ENTIRE
POPULATION rather than a risk to one person who was dealt a
bad genetic hand, yet has made no effort to obtain a readily-
available cure for the affliction.

Moreover, municipalities can impose bans on things like walking
and passenger vehicles and expect to be able to enforce them.
In contrast, a "ban" on beehives within the municipal limits is
easy to prove as "useless, ineffective, and providing no tangible
amount of additional protection", even to the one person who has
an illness that they refuse to treat.

Stinging insects fly where they wish. Just try to stop them.
Controls for bees don't work. Bees tend to be oblivious to
political boundaries. Yellowjackets and wasps would be nearly
impossible to eradicate, making any "ban" on bees even more useless.

As another sanity check and point of reference, in 2000, 65 people died
in the USA of food poisoning ("gastroenteritis of presumed infectious origin")
in Canada, 13 people died in 2000.

Is this the "quiche of death"?.

Local feral survivors in eight frame medium boxes.
54,344 Posts
Here's a statistic from "The Well Workplace" September 2004 edition in the artical "10 tips for taking charge of your healthcare"

"According to the Institute of Medicine, as many as 7,000 deaths occur each year as a result of incorrect prescriptions. Check the label on your medicine bottle against the name on your prescription!"

731 Posts
I think rhetorically you are much better off emphasizing that bees and other insects are natural and beneficial, and that their existence is not caused by beekeeping any more than the existence of green plants is caused by farming. Also you can emphasize that beekeepers select for gentleness which means the natural populaton of bees in an area with keepers is likely to be gentler than would otherwise be the case.

Comparing numbers of deaths from various activities only goes so far. You will note from your comparison that pedestrian deaths from walking down the street also vastly outnumber deaths from terrorism. That doesn't stop the nervous nelly's from totally restructuring societies, constitutions, and budgets to prevent it. The numbers are probably important for some perspective, but I think it is more important to emphasize the principle that bees are natural and beneficial. I think time is better spent creating a positive image for beekeeping in the minds of 'undecideds' rather than just trying to downplay the negative.
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