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03/06/2015
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It was all going so well when I first arrived at the apiary to do another routine check on the Farming Today beehive. There was a light breeze, the sky was blue, the birds were singing.

I was just admiring the view and the wildlife when it happened. I wasn't anywhere near a hive and hadn't had the chance to put my protective veil on, when a bee (definitely not one of the Farming Today bees) took a dislike to my newly shampoo'ed hair and, after buzzing around my head for a few seconds, dive-bombed my eye. I think my reaction was something along the lines of "ouch" as the bee speared my eyelid with its poisoned dart. Clive Joyce, our mentor, was there and scraped the sting out of my eyelid. Novices be warned - never pinch a sting out, always scrape it out. If you pinch it you'll squeeze more venom out.

Yes it did hurt - I was expecting that. But I wasn't expecting the pain that followed for 12 hours nor the Popeye look I had the following 2 days. But, 4 days later, my eye is now only slightly swollen and almost back to normal.

I tell you this not because I want sympathy (though I'll take it if it's offered) but as a timely reminder about the dangers of working with bees. I'm sure many beekeepers may be slightly irritated that I am making such a meal of this, many of them feel that we should celebrate the positive aspects of beekeeping. But stings are a problem, and they really hurt. For some who are particularly allergic, stings can be fatal. For the rest, our mentor, Clive informs me that once you're stung 20 times to get immunity. I'm 5% there already. I'd be interested to hear any of your views on stings - why did the bee go for me when I was nowhere near any hive? Do you have immunity from beestings - if so how long did it take you?

On the positive side. Farming Today now has two hives. The bees were clearly trying to swarm out of our first hive, so Chris and Clive 'artificially' swarmed the hive. Chris will post the mechanics of this later. It has now occurred to me that we'll have to go through the process of naming another Queen.

Aunty is still doing well in the first hive. Honey production going well and we're keeping our fingers crossed for Charlotte's cake. We've entered 4 categories at the Royal Show. Light honey, medium honey, honeycombe and honey cake. If you're planning to be at the Royal Show do come along and say hello. Chris and I will both be giving demonstrations in beekeeping on Wednesday 8th July at the BBKA tent.

Fran Barnes is Senior Producer at Farming Today

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  • Comment number 8. Posted by beemonk

    on 20 Jul 2009 13:40

    Your sting story resonated. We recently inspected a friends bees and were quite shocked at how in our face they were! It made us realise that ours were much calmer than we had realised. Is it possible that different varieties of bees vary in buzz? Ours are lightish in colour whereas our friends were darker.
    I have come to the conclusion bee experience needs to be measured in years rather than months. At the second attempt we have almost got an established brood box, but no need for supers yet! We are green with envy at a fellow novice who has 7 supers! However she has been stung!
    Beemonk

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  • Comment number 7. Posted by BeesKnees

    on 20 Jul 2009 11:12

    On bee stings again....

    On talking to beekeepers and medical professionals alike, I have been and am still shocked at their lack of knowledge and misdiagnoses when it comes to the difference between anaphylactic shock and a systemic reaction!

    So many people are diagnosed with suffering with anaphylactic shock due to a bee sting because doctors see a whole arm swelling up or a part of the body away from the sting being swollen. Anaphylaxis is quite the opposite. All of the external organs shut down turning them blue and blood supply is transferred to the core organs.

    A systemic reaction can of course lead to anaphylactic shock, however it rarely does! Doctors treat systemic reactions (wrongly) with adrenaline (Epi Pens) before they actually see any signs of anaphylaxis.

    People who truly suffer from anaphlaxis rarely make it to hospital alive! They get stung, there is no reaction (meaning no immune response), the venom reached the heart or brain and their body goes into shutdown. Usually death occurs through cardiac arrest.

    All in all, if you react to a bee sting, it is good news! If you don't, get an epi pen and use it before you lose consciousness!

    As far as I am concerned a bit of pain is a good thing. They say that beekeepers don't get arthritis. Personally I think they do, but just can't feel it in comparison to a bee sting!

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  • Comment number 6. Posted by BeesKnees

    on 20 Jul 2009 10:58

    Really pleased to see this blog! I've been an apiarist for 3 years (well, 2 1/2) and it's been a great learning curve! I'll be making a film this year on Beekeeping, so have been reading as much as I can, as well as talking to as many beekeepers as I can, which is an interesting experience as far as how things should be done goes!

    On the subject of stings, general consensus is that you get the sting out as quickly as possible, regardless of squeezing it but ideally srcaping it if you have something to hand! The muscles on the venom sack continue to pump while you are finding someone to get the sting out, so get it out quick if I were you, especially somewhere near the eye or throat. The main reason for wearing a veil (I tend not to wear gloves) is so that if you are stung in the eye the venom can cause the optic nerve to swell and could kill you or cause brain damage and similarly, a sting to the neck could cause an obstruction to the throat and stop you breathing!

    A likely cause of being stung on the eye lid is that if you were wearing makeup either the colour (blue is very visible to bees) or the smell (bees work more on pheremones than anything else) caused the bee alarm.
    I once changed the hair gel that I use and if I went anywhere near the hive I'd be dived bombed!

    As for immunity, I react in an unusual manner. It hurts (a lot) then doesn't swell until the next day and gets to a peak of itchyness and swelling 2 days later! My brother was an apiarist in Israel and they used to purposely sting their forearm every 2 weeks in order to keep up immunity. I just don't wear gloves or wear thin rubber gloves if I am expected anywhere posh, so that I don't get yellow stained fingers! I'm not immune and don't see any signs of it yet, despite about 5 to 10 stings a year.

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  • Comment number 5. Posted by quisquam

    on 15 Jul 2009 06:01

    Bee keeping seems to be another one of these high risk hobbies!
    Does swarming often occur? I don't have the time to attend bee keeping classes myself (work, home, sheep, horses, poultry, garden etc....) but would like to do something to be of help. I have been trying to get in touch with bee keepers associations local to me to see if they had members who would be interested in sites to put hive. I have plenty of space (and its designated agricultural). The response, when there was any at all, was not very lively or interested. I'm between Hereford and Worcester. Anyone out there also trying to offer sites and having any success? Should I make my offer know to places where bee keeping courses are going on; where might this be in my area???

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  • Comment number 4. Posted by trevor-ted

    on 10 Jul 2009 17:26

    Why term it "go bad". The bee was doing what comes naturally.

    Would have preferred to learn about the artificial swarming, rather than the biggest paragraph being a lecture on bee stings. Stop being so risk averse. All people who are "particularly allergic" are in danger of "fatal" reactions. Presumably they avoid the allergen?




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  • Comment number 3. Posted by lordBeddGelert

    on 3 Jul 2009 18:26

    Off-topic, but what is the producer price of a litre of milk these days ?

    It was alluded to in Simon Hoggart's Sketch, so he may have had his tongue in his cheek, or he may have gone for the 'you have to laugh or you will cry' approach..

    http://www.guardian.co.uk/politics/2009/jul/03/simon-hoggarts-sketch-agriculture-misery

    I shall leave you to judge how accurate the rest of his satire is...

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  • Comment number 2. Posted by lordBeddGelert

    on 3 Jul 2009 11:03

    Honey - no pain, no gain...

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  • Comment number 1. Posted by TheRealDealDoc

    on 3 Jul 2009 08:38

    Sorry to hear about your sting - I bet you want one of these BeeCabs though - I do!
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6lu1f0bmbCw

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