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Apr 02 2013

They don’t call them killer bees for nothing

hands                        Image by John Livingston, professional video grapher, used with permission.

I was helping a friend with some chores yesterday when I felt the first sting. Within a minute I’d been stung another 10 times at least. One of the good things about being a science geek is knowing what might be going on before others do and what was going on was clear as day: these bees were swarming, they were probably Africanized.

I screamed a warning to him to get in the car immediately. I was wearing scotch guarded jeans and a hoodie, he only had shorts and a T, so I practically shoved him toward safety using my body like a lineman protecting the quarterback . Nevertheless, in the 20 foot run it took us to the to the truck I was stung at least fifty more times — they followed us like creatures from a horror movie, a few somehow got through the vents and cracks in the closed SUV and flew around inside! I was using my hands to cover my face on the mad dash so that’s where most of the stings were. But a few of these plucky little bastards managed to get through my jeans and elsewhere. The local area hospital didn’t want to give me adrenaline unless I showed signs of anaphylaxis; it enables clotting and I’m a recently minted heart patient on blood thinners.

Well, apparently I’m not allergic to bee stings as I was released the next day. BTW, if you think that right hand looks bad in the photo, it was the size of a cantaloupe for most of the night.

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  1. 1
    starskeptic

    if only they’d been armed…

  2. 2
    Onamission5

    OW. Ow, ow, ow.

    Cantaloupe sized hand? My utmost sympathies.

  3. 3
    Ben P

    If you were badly allergic to bee stings you might not have made it to the hospital. The poison is bad enough when you’re not sensitive, and 50-60 stings is a lot. I had a run in with hornets as a kid, got stun 100+ times and I’m not sensitive at all but they kept me in the hospital overnight for monitoring.

  4. 4
    Stephen "DarkSyde" Andrew

    I did feel a little nausau for a few hours. But you wanna hear something really weird? Today I feel SUPERB. I feel alert, bouncy, and I have a serious autoimmune disorder, those symptoms have completely disappeared today.

  5. 5
    thebookofdave

    It sounds less bizarre to me. I knew a local beekeeper who swore by apitherapy, deliberately exposing himself to a few stings each week. According to him, it’s great for relief from arthritis pain and stiffness. Congratulations, Stephen! You are an accidental beneficiary of alternative medicine.

  6. 6
    StevoR : Free West Papua, free Tibet, let the Chagossians return!

    Ouch! Naaassty. At leats the initial attack.

    Glad that you’re feeling superb today though DarkSyde. Hope the positive effects last for ages – preferably forever! :-)

  7. 7
    embertine

    I can believe that; topical nettle stings are supposed to be a great arthritis treatment. Naturally, the alt-med crowd have translated this into the consumption of nettle extract which I can’t imagine has the same effect.

    I suffer from hayfever, and my symptoms are always relieved if I have insect bites at the same time. It’s almost as though my immune system likes to be kept busy and, like a Weimeraner puppy, gets destructive if it doesn’t have enough to do!

    Sadly I am allergic to bee stings and (although I’ve only been stung once) with 50 of them I might not make it to hospital. It’s a shame as I am very fond of the fuzzy little beasties and I dislike having to be wary of them.

  8. 8
    meyerman

    Maybe you’ve seen this: http://ngm.nationalgeographic.com/2013/02/venom/holland-text.

  9. 9
    eucliwood

    Wow :( how painful was it? I would be absolutely terrified. Did either of you drive off while you were being stuck? Have the bees been caught? For the above poster: I might be one of the people who benefit from a voluntary control of adrenaline. Thing is, it feels different from times my adrenaline is accidentally triggered, so I need to test it out somehow (any lab people here?). But if what I flood my body with is adrenaline, I can try to teach you how to do it, so that if you are stung, you can treat yourself before you get to the hospital :p. The only outward signs I exhibit are my pupils getting larger. Not sure if thats a sign of an adrenaline rush.

  10. 10
    Holms

    Reasonably certain I would not have made that night, even in hospital – a single sting would be enough to make my hand the size of a canteloupe for a month, with a further two months to slowly shrink and return from purple / bruise colour to my normal pasty, unhealthy pallor. 50? Pure horror.

  11. 11
    F [is for failure to emerge]

    a few somehow got through the vents and cracks in the closed SUV and flew around inside!

    I’ve heard of this at least several times and even seen it on film. When you’re targeted, you’re targeted.

  12. 12
    jnorris

    <satire I know this has not been lost on anyone, but Stephen "Melon Hand" Andrew never got stung like this while George W Bush was president. But just five years after The Kenyan is elected, BOOM, African Killer Bees!!! </satire
    *
    Please be careful in the future. You may develop a sever allergy to bee/wasp venom because of this episode.

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