My First Bee Sting As a Beekeeper

September 6, 2013
Bees returning to the hive mid-flight.

I knew it would eventually happen.

But I never thought my first bee sting would happen like this.

After we returned from California there was a lot of work to be done both indoors and out, especially in the vegetable garden. After a week of neglect, the garden was on my priority list. Over ripened tomatoes had fallen to the ground. I discovered some of them had been nibbled on by my relentless gang of chipmunks that live in my rock retaining walls.  Some stems were covered in brown leaves.  Their days of nourishing the plant were complete. They need to be trimmed back. Vegetables and herbs needed to be picked. As I began to tend to the garden I soon realized that the bees had changed their flight pattern in our absence.

In the fall the bees are in a noticeable rush to make their deadline, winter. This is perhaps one of the busiest times of the years, as they begin to stockpile everything that they need to survive winter here on Cape Cod. Their hives need to contain at least 60 to 80 pounds of honey and pollen. As they rush to hoard and stock-up, they are cranky. They are moving fast. Drones are being kicked out of the hive and the queen is preparing to lay winter bees. As soon as the sun rises, the bees are out and about scouting out sources within a 5 mile radius of nectar and pollen. Once sources are located, the bees return to the hive and dance out the location of the food as it relates to the sun, hive and source. The other worker bees pay close attention and then relay this information to the rest of the hive. Bees upon bees can be seen darting off into the same direction.  As they leave the hive they fly with a purpose. When they return to the hive, they fly like something out of a cartoon. Talk about a beeline, wow they are fast and direct.

As I mulled about the garden, no sooner did I realize that I had been hit in the head by three bees in rapid succession. I could feel them entangled in my hair buzzing and squirming frantically to get out. They didn’t realize what had happened but I sure did. My instincts took over and I began to try and delicately slide my fingers through my hair. I didn’t realize that I still had my gardening gloves on and I accidentally squashed one. It fell onto my shirt and as the final signs of life fled its body I felt a burning pinch- the bee sting. Even in its final moments, it still felt obligated to protect the hive. My heart sank. I felt so bad. There were two more bees buzzing in my hair, so I slid my fingers through. I no longer heard buzzing. I peered down at my hand and saw a stinger perched in my palm. As I went to brush it off, I stung myself. The stinger was still full of venom! Ouch, another bee sting! I felt like a complete fool.

I could feel both stings pulsating and well, stinging like crazy.  The bee sting wasn’t as bad as I had remembered. The last time I was stung had been when I was 6 years old at the town pool by a nasty yellow jacket. I went inside, took a Claritin and rubbed some hydrocortisone on the bee stings. At least, I now know that I am not allergic to bee stings. I left the garden alone for the rest of the afternoon. Heck I’ve left it alone now for the last few days. I’ve been watching closely and their resources are still off in that direction.  Those bees have much more important work to do than me.

I might try to tend to the garden after 7 pm tonight. Almost all of the bees should be in their hive, fanning the nectar with their wings to turn it into honey. You guessed it, honey bees never sleep. There is just too much work to be done.

Photo Credit: Tilly’s Nest


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11 thoughts on “My First Bee Sting As a Beekeeper”

  1. Yikes! Well, at least you got it out of the way haha. And you know you aren't allergic – that's a good thing! I'm still waiting for my first sting. I'm hoping it's not as bad as wasps. I got one of those a couple summers ago on my foot and I can still remember the horrible pain that lasted so long! I shudder thinking about it. I actually don't think I've ever been stung by a bee before, just wasps.

  2. Ouch! I haven't been stung by a honey bee since I was a child too. I have been stung by ants and they sure do hurt! I guess the odds are pretty good that you will get stung as a beekeeper, but I'm sure it's no less painful.

    Thank you for being a beekeeper…as someone who is directly experiencing the effects of decreased bee population, I appreciate every person who tries to help bees.


  3. If you don't have hydrocortisone, a cotton ball dipped in regualar household ammonia will help to draw the poison out and quell the pain quickly. A paste made of baking soda also works but slower. An old wife with a tale…

  4. There is a lovely product called "Sting Kill" that comes in little vials that you squeeze to break the glass and then dab on the emerald green liquid. I think it has something like lidocaine to numb it. It works for bees, yellow jackets and surprisingly, I've used it on several scorpion stings too (our mild California scorpions, nothing deadly or such). After the sting kill, I put on some of the cortisone cream, and usually I can't see the results by the next day.

  5. I had the same happen to me last year. I went around the back of one hive just to look at the entrance and a bee flew into my hair; I took a sting on the ear. This was pure accident, but I've had worse due to my own carelessness. Earlier this year, I was working on a hive and set one of the supers on the ground next to me. I was wearing loosely fitting jeans and the bees went up my pants leg. I probably got 20 stings on my legs, chest and neck. I've been a lot more careful since then 🙂

    • Yikes! Super scary when that happens as try as I might, the adrenaline just takes over for me. I'm sure they smell it too. They say when you are nervous as a beekeeper to whistle. I think I've perfected that art 🙂

  6. Since you garden as well as keep bees, I am sure you have some of this great weed lurking somewhere around: plantain, aka snakeweed or whiteman's foot. If you grab a leaf, chew or mash it up and put it on the sting, it not only eases the pain, it also draws out the stinger. Put a bandaid over the top of the mashed up plant, and suddenly being stung isn't as bad. Keep telling us about your bees! I want to start keeping bees as soon as I can convince my fiancé. Thanks for the detailed and useful information, and the beautiful pictures!


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Sharing an inspired life from the New England seaside. Chickens, Bees, Gardens, Art and Yummy Goodness.