Sting the hand that feeds you

April 27, 2007

Both hives are doing well, if their voraciousness is anything to go by.  They’ve sucked down a gallon or so of sugary water each (1 part sugar, one part water, heat to dissolve the water, but don’t boil otherwise the sugar will carmelize) I’ve given them in the past couple of weeks. I went to restock their supply this evening and one of the little ingrates stung me!

The most frequent question I get as a beekeeper is “do you get stung?” Yes. The follow on question is something along the lines of “does it hurt?” Now, I can confidently answer 2.1.

2.1? Yes, the Schmidt Sting Pain Index, developed by entomologist Justin Schmidt, indexes and classifies the stings of 78 species of bees, wasp and ants in beautiful, lyrical detail.  Stung by a sweat bee? At 1.0, your experience will be “light, ephemeral, almost fruity”. Ah, but should you become intimate with red harvester ant (3.0), expect the experience to be “bold and unrelenting. Somebody is using a drill to excavate your ingrown toenail.” And woe to he who crosses a bullet ant (4.0+), for he is in for a “pure, intense, brilliant pain. Like walking over flaming charcoal with a 3-inch nail in your heel.”

Should you wish to avoid the hot and smoky feeling of a bee sting and have the misfortune of having a bee think otherwise, there are a few tricks to minimizing the pain:

  • Don’t pull the stinger out.  On the end of the stinger is a little sack of venom.  If you watch it, you can see it pulse, squeezing hot hurtness into you.  If you grab it, you’ll just push the rest right through into you.  Instead, flick the stinger off.  Coming across and under it with a credit card is ideal. 
  • Go high tech and use this venom extractor for $20 from Amazon.
  • Make a paste of meat tenderizer and pulp it onto the sting.  This will break down the proteins in the venom and considerably reduce the intensity and length of pain. 

Perhaps back down to light and ephemeral.

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