By Eigil Holm, Gedved, Denmark
I cut an unripe fruit in two and asked him to rub it gently on the place where he was stung. I told him that it would relieve the pain in a few minutes, and as usual it did.
The following day a bee stung him during the honey Harvest. He said nothing but ran to the garden, found a fruit and rubbed his skin. He came back a few minutes later and told me he was all right. He was not scared because he knew what to do.
It is a well-known fact that a bee sting is not agreeable. Many people are afraid of being stung by a bee and some believe they could die from it. The chance of dying from a bee sting is 1:15,000,000 which means that in a country with 15 million inhabitants someone will die from a bee sting every year. You can compare this with the chance of becoming a Lottery millionaire in Denmark where it is about 300 out of 15 million people per year.
When a wasp stings, people often believe it is a bee.
Many people wave their arms when they see a stinging insect. In this way their chance of being stung increases rapidly. When a wasp approaches my grandson he lets it crawl on him. Eventually he points at its abdomen with his hand and with a sudden jerk of his fingers shoots the abdomen with the sting away.
ACTING IN DEFENCE
In fact bees are rarely aggressive. Stinging is a defensive reaction to protect their colony. Bees prefer not to sting because they will die as a result: the sting is constructed like a saw, and the teeth of the saw cannot be withdrawn from human skin. The sting with its poison glands, its muscles and nerves remain when the bee pulls away. The poison gland continues to pump poison into the wound and scent from the sting apparatus continues calling other bees to sting. The sting must be taken away immediately with a fingernail. Then blow a little smoke on the skin and thus the smell is masked and other bees are not attracted.
A bee will not sting when it is working on a flower unless you close your hand tightly around it. However, beekeepers are attacked by bees when they are opening hives. Some bees are too alert. They attack people 20 or 40 metres away from the hive and this is certainly not good. The African honeybee in America is renowned for its high defensiveness. As an example, if a piece of leather is placed in front of a hive and a stone is thrown on the hive to alert the bees, the leather will be attacked. Afterwards if you count the stings there can be several hundred.
Hives with highly defensive bees must be placed far away from people. The queen should if possible be replaced with a queen from a peaceful colony.
How many stings can people survive? There are medical records about a drunken man who attacked some hives and was stung 8,000 times. He was taken to hospital and recovered!
In some countries bee venom is harvested. Bees are caught in a box containing a thin rubber membrane. A weak electric current makes the bees sting, and the poison is collected below the membrane.
The poison is thinned and used for injections for people who wish to reduce their sensitivity to bee stings.
It takes a long time, but people treated in this way become immune to bee stings. It is mainly beekeepers that need this treatment when they become hypersensitive to bee stings and want to continue beekeeping, but only a few beekeepers will need this treatment.
IN SUMMARY, honeybees are rarely aggressive. They sting because they need to defend themselves. If possible you should behave in such a way that the bees will not sting you. A sting means a dead bee, and every death is a reduction in your honey harvest.
[Bees for Development Journal #61]