When I got home from the lake, I discovered that the day game of the Yankees/Red Sox game was going to be televised after all (on NESN) and that I would be able to watch it. I was planning on mowing the lawn, which was in desperate need of mowing. I figured I’d do the front yard first and do the back yard after the first game (their second day/night double-header in a row).

I put on the the iPod and off I went mowing. I’d mowed about 3/5ths of the front yard when I felt a tight pinch at the base of my right calf, and looked down to discover that I’d been stung by a bee. It’s the first time I’ve been stung since I was a kid. As it turns out, I must have run over a bee hive under the grass because when I looked back, there were bees all over. It was almost game time, so I decided to finish mowing after the game.

In the meantime, I had to deal with the sting, and I had no idea what to do, other than make sure to get the stinger out, which I did right away. I called Mom and Dad, figuring they’d know what to do about a bee sting. My initial concern was that in the intervening decades since I last was stung, I might have developed an allergy to the venon and ended up with anaphalaxis (watching too much House, I suppose). They told me to ice it down. At this time, here’s what it looks like:

I forgot how much bee stings actually hurt, given the size of the stinger and the amount of venon contained therewithin. It made my curious as to why bee stings hurt so much. So I did a little research:

  • First, a honeybee sting hurts more than a bumblebee sting. The reason is that a honeybee leaves her entire reproductive system behind with the stinger, which continues to pump venom even after it is released. Honeybees sacrifice themselves in the attack. Bumblebees, on the otherhand, do not commit suicide upon stinging; they sting, inject some toxin, and pull out. So honeybees inject more toxin than bumblebees.
  • Honeybees release apitoxin, an acidic toxin with a pH somewhere between 4.5 and 5.5 and have the ability to inject a total of 0.1 mg. Apitoxin is similar to snake venom. Interestingly, apitoxin can be deactivated by ethanol (grain alcohol)
  • If a honeybee is fatally injured, in addition to releasing apitoxin, it also releases alarm pheromones. If a swarm or hive is nearby, these pheromones will attract other bees and excite them into a defensive mode.

I suspect is was a honeybee that stung me because (a) the stinger was still in the wound at first, until I brushed it off (it wasn’t deep); and (b) it wasn’t until after the sting that the other bees showed up.

As a precaution, in addition to icing down the sting, I took some benedryl (an antihistamine) to counteract the itchiness common to stings.


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