Strength in numbers is a clichéd expression, yet it’s still vitally important when discussing organisms that can possibly kill you on contact. The enemies in question are bees, and they can be one of the most underestimated adversaries you face in the great outdoors or even in your very own backyard.
The friendly bees
Bees generally do not intend to seek and attack. Instead, they’re driven to mind their own business and focus on their mission: to collect pollen from nearby flowers and convert it to honey. However, things don’t always go as planned for bees just trying to do their jobs. They may find themselves without a queen for one reason or another, which can cause restlessness and, ultimately, extremely “bad” behavior.
Bees can also have insufficient nectar from surrounding plants, which causes them to seek out other hives where they invade and loot. This creates hostilities between the two factions, and any humans, pets, or other animals caught in the crossfire become collateral damage.
Environmental conditions can increase bee aggression. Rainy weather coupled with high heat and sticky humidity can make bees irritable and ready to take out their frustration on anything or anyone in their path.
Finally, the odor of dead bees and honey can create a virtual battleground where wasps, hornets, and yellow jackets enter the fray to collect the carcasses of fallen bees and honey. That convergence can create a dangerous situation for anyone nearby who’s unaware of the volatile situation unfolding.
The effects of bee stings vary greatly from person to person. The severity of the symptoms also depends upon the number of stings a person receives, the individual’s physical makeup, and, most importantly, allergies the individual may have to bee venom.
A bee-sting allergy can be life-threatening, even with very few stings spread across an individual’s body. In this case, the venom causes an allergic reaction, which in turn can produce numerous noticeable symptoms, including rapid swelling of the eyes, lips, tongue, and throat. Other symptoms are hives, rashes, itching, dizziness, breathing difficulties, loss of consciousness, and even death.
There are ways to minimize a bee attack, and with a little know-how and common sense, you can make it out of a dangerous swarm alive and ready to continue your trek through the wilderness. Let’s review eight practical tips for avoiding and escaping a bee onslaught.
Don’t attract unwanted attention
Your first line of defense against bees is to avoid attracting their attention. Avoid wearing perfumes or colognes. Detecting strong scents is a trait most bees and wasps share. Once they identify your sweet-smelling fragrance, they swarm around you as if you were a giant flower.
Also, wear clothing that is neutral and absent of brightly colored prints. White, khaki, and beige-colored clothing decrease your chances of being eyed by curious bees.
What you eat can hurt you
Not directly, but sweet and sugary foods are a target for hungry bees, wasps, or other stinger-armed flying insects. The sweet fragrance of an opened can of soda pop or fruit wedge attracts them, and when they make contact, the signal goes out that dinner is served!
To avoid unwanted guests, cover your opened soda can, or you risk pouring a bee or two into your mouth. Completely finish your fruit snack and discard the skin in the proper receptacle. Always close garbage cans and recycling containers tightly when not in use. Opened, they provide a buffet for these dangerous insects and allow them to come closer to homes and small businesses nearby.
Dress for an attack.
Avoid wearing loose-fitting clothing when venturing outdoors. You can’t always avoid dresses or short pants, but you’re better safe than sorry when hiking or exploring outdoors. Loose-fitting clothes allow bees to find their way to your tender skin, and when you react to their movements, you naturally swat or scratch the area, inviting a nasty sting.
Also, wear appropriate footwear. Walking barefoot can cause an instant defensive sting if a bee is trampled underfoot or disturbed. In this case, the bee doesn’t have to travel far to find an appropriate target.
Flee when attacked
If you encounter one bee that flies around you, remain still and allow it to leave once it realizes that you aren’t another flower. However, when a swarm or even a few dozen bees head your way, run!
Don’t bother swatting the bees around your head; you’ll only incite them to attack. Instead, save your energy and run as fast as possible to a sealable shelter. Cover your face with your shirt to protect this vital area, but don’t stop doing it— running fast is your top priority.
Although it may sound cruel, don’t head back into the swarm to help other able adults, or the bees will only overcome both of you. Shout forcibly for other people to run. If small children or elderly people are present, help them move quickly to evade the swarm and head for the nearest shelter.
Find adequate shelter
Your intended shelter must be sealable so bees can’t enter and cause havoc. Buildings and automobiles work well, as do zippered tents or even a nearby park restroom. Avoid jumping into swimming pools or lakes. Bees have been known to wait above the surface until a person comes up for air and viciously sting.
A heavy comforter, blanket, or sleeping bag will create a barrier between you and the bees’ stingers in a pinch. Just be sure openings aren’t exposed. Wait until you can’t hear them flying about, then cautiously get up and run to safety.
When safe, remove stingers
When safely away from the attacking bees, it’s important to remove the stinger(s) if a honey bee has attacked you. They leave their stingers in a person’s skin and die in the process. Removing the stinger quickly decreases the amount of venom that enters your bloodstream.
Don’t use tweezers or try to pinch the stinger out with your fingers; this will only inject more venom. Instead, scrape the stinger out with a credit card or dull knife blade.
However, if you have nothing to use, get the stinger out any way possible. Removing it quickly always supersedes the risk of accidentally squeezing more venom into your skin.
Get medical help if stinging is severe
The basic formula for living through a massive bee-sting attack works out to about 10 stings per pound of body weight. Translated, people who aren’t allergic can tolerate nearly 1,000 stings. However, if allergic, a person can suffer crippling symptoms from a single sting.
If a bee allergy is known prior to a sting, an individual should carry an EpiPen in case of an emergency. If anaphylaxis—an acute allergic reaction to which the body becomes hypersensitive—occurs, this immediate lifesaver can be administered until professional medical attention is available.
If a sting victim shows signs of a reaction without prior experience, reaching immediate medical assistance is absolutely a must.
A bee sting can be one of the most unpleasant, even downright painful, experiences a human can have with one of nature’s smallest creatures. As little as they are, bees pack a wallop of pain when their venom hits your skin. However, there are remedies that can ease the pain. Some are found in local drugstores and some, believe it or not, are probably in your kitchen cabinets.
Try the following remedies to make your bee sting buzz off.
This easy-to-find, creamy liquid quickly eases burning stings. Apply to the affected area, and you’ll feel a soothing tingle. Its effects last only about four hours, then the stinging pain reemerges in full force. Add another coat for continued relief.
Another drugstore staple, simply apply this white cream to the affected area for relief. Although not as effective as other treatments, hydrocortisone works in a pinch.
Antihistamines and benzocaine sticks:
Both can help relieve bee-sting pain, yet their soothing effects are short-lived. Lasting anywhere from 15 minutes to one hour, these two remedies make great temporary medical aid until a more effective solution can be found.
Ice can be a great remedy to calm a bee sting. Just wrap some ice in a cloth and hold it in place for about 20 minutes. The cold will constrict blood vessels, which slows down the flow of the bee’s venom in the bloodstream. The ice also numbs the pain and itching to the area where it’s applied.
Believe it or not, toothpaste can relieve stings. Coat some on the skin’s surface and wait about an hour and a half for your symptoms to alleviate. It’s well worth the time because you’ll have nearly five hours of continued pain relief before reapplication is necessary.
Meat tenderizer, baking soda, and vinegar:
Mix these kitchen items to create a pain-relieving paste. Meat tenderizer contains an enzyme called papain, which breaks down toxins contained within bee venom. The downside is that the vinegar smells bad.
This simple remedy alleviates pain for about 30 minutes. Just apply to the site of the sting, and enjoy its cool and soothing pain-relieving sensations.
Another home remedy that can be found in nearly anyone’s pantry is a potato. Cut a raw potato in half and apply it directly to the affected area. This simple fix not only provides instant temporary relief but it can also help the sting heal more quickly.
Perform regular perimeter inspections.
During seasonal times when bees are most active—early spring through the end of summer—it’s best to scout your property’s entire perimeter, outside your property lines (if possible), and every nook and cranny of each structure present on your land. These could include sheds, tall or thick-leaved trees, roof overhangs, or anywhere a bee nest could be created (just about everywhere).
By regularly surveying your land, you can limit the size of a continuously growing bees’ nest and ultimately decrease your chances of hurtful stings in the future. However, even when dealing with a seemingly small nest, take precautions and safeguards when ridding yourself of these buzzing bullies.
Useful resources to check out: