Being a beekeeper is one of the most rewarding and fun hobbies/careers anyone can pursue! It’s engaging and really takes you out of your comfort zone depending on what you do. However, it obviously means you’re going to get some bee stings.
When I first started beekeeping, bee stings were my biggest fear. If I’m being honest, I still get scared waiting for the next sting (LOL). But, as time passes, the anxiety of getting stung lessens and so does your reaction to bee stings.
In this post, I’m dishing out everything I’ve learned in my 4 years of beekeeping when it comes to bee stings. Keep in mind that I am not a health professional and please take this post with a grain of salt! Your doctor will always know best so please consult with them in regards to any concerns you may have with your new hobby before you get your bees. If you’re a beginner beekeeper or still thinking of getting bees, read my post on what you should consider before diving into the world of beekeeping!
Getting Stung For the First Time
If you’ve never been stung before or don’t remember what your reaction was like when you were younger, I recommend stinging yourself on purpose before working bees. This is important because if you have a serious reaction you need to prepare your body with venom therapy.
What I do with friends that want to work bees with me is that I have them open a hive with no gloves and get stung on their hand. We take the stinger out after a few seconds and then sit in our truck for 15-30 minutes to see the reaction. I always keep liquid Benadryl on me just in case. Unfortunately, I can’t afford an EpiPen through my health insurance but I hope to get one in the future. If you can afford an EpiPen, I definitely recommend getting one!
After I know there is no serious reaction, we are in the clear to work bees! It’s important to note that while serious, anaphylactic reactions can happen, they are still extremely rare cases. I have been told by many people that they’re highly allergic to bees when in reality, they just get some localized swelling reactions and not necessarily life-threatening symptoms.
Localized reactions are usually just severe swelling at the sting site. When I first started getting stung, I would swell pretty severely sometimes. However, the more I got stung the less of a reaction I’d get.
In terms of dealing with localized reactions, it can still be dangerous especially if you get stung near your throat and nose. Therefore, if you know you get localized swelling you should always wear a veil when working around bees.
Making Bee Stings More Bearable
Bee stings are obviously uncomfortable. It can be painful and very annoying if you get itchy after being stung. Each person will react differently but there are some things I’ve learned that can help ease the reaction.
When you get a bee sting, do your best to get the stinger out as soon as possible. The longer the stinger stays in, the more venom will be pumped into your body. Always take an antihistamine after getting stung if you want to ease symptoms. Personally, I rarely take an antihistamine because I want my body to naturally get used to bee venom. I usually take an antihistamine when I get multiple stings in one day.
You should not take pain relievers like NSAIDs.
NSAIDs typically thin your blood and will then cause the venom in your blood to spread. So what happens? The venom spreads along with the swelling! Your recovery time will take much longer this route. However, if you consistently take antihistamines the swelling will most probably go down faster.
I’ve experienced this myself with bee stings on my arms. After taking ibuprofen, my swelling traveled up my wrist past my elbow. I also have a good friend (Hi Jenna!) who got stung under the eye and half her face became severely swollen after taking pain relievers.
Bee Stings and Allergies
I think every beekeeper has a fear of developing an allergy to bee stings. I have spoken to many beekeepers who have gone through this and have had to do venom therapy to ease their allergy.
While anyone can develop an allergy at any time, I have done some research in helping to prevent this was happening. One of the biggest takeaways is storing bee clothing and equipment that may have stingers in them away from yourself and others. Some say that just breathing in the venom can cause allergies to bees.
It’s important to wash your gear often and store it away from your family. Changing out of any clothes that may have stingers in them is important too.
Another important thing to consider is how often you get stung. Going a few months between good stings may be a problem for some people. The more often you get stung the less of a reaction you will eventually have. I have spoken to a few beekeepers who developed an allergy by going a few months without being stung. However, anyone can develop an allergy at any moment.
Ask your family members if they have any allergies to insects. It could run in your family. It’s also important to talk to your doctor about any concerns you have about bee stings and allergies as this post is purely my opinion on the matter and a few tips from my own experience. Everyone is different and will have a different reaction/story to tell about their experience with stings!
So tell me! Do you have any advice for bee stings? Have a story to tell about a bee sting you got? Let me know in a comment below. I’d love to share sting stories!
4 thoughts on “Beekeeping for Beginners: Bee Stings 101”
my story with bees and bites I tell it over and over again, the first time it stung me in the hand and it swelled up like a balloon, I didn’t use medication, but if I let it happen again a few days later, the swelling was less and so I repeated the stage so far that itches and nothing happens
Hey Carlos!! Thanks for sharing your experience. The same thing happened to my boyfriend. He gets stung much more often than me and now his reactions are extremely minimal. Just a little itchiness and nothing more! It’s crazy how our bodies can adapt. -Tasha
4 years ago we bought a beekeeping business and 6 months in I discovered I am one of the few that has a sever perhaps anaphylaxis allergy… I carry an epipen and Benadryl and I do sting therapy. Nowadays, I only have a bad reaction if I’m stung in the face. I have very little reaction on my hands and legs.
I teach children about bees and I don’t want them to be scared, so I typically don’t wear a suit or veil. My routine is to start with a smoker ritual, which is calming for me and also covers me in smoke. Then I assess the temperament of the hive (obviously weather etc) and make a call on if I should suit up. I always tell people… “yeah, it really hurts if you get stung (validation), but it hurts more for the bee (fact). AND bees are so cool that sometimes it’s worth it just so I can learn from this amazing creature”.
That’s so awesome Cassie! I’m sorry to hear you had severe reactions but happy that you’re still working with bees and teaching little ones how cool they are. It’s so important for us to educate them. Thanks so much for sharing that!! -Tasha