As you know, our season is ending, but I was looking back on these photos I found of when an aggressive honeybee followed us out of the bee yard. It started circling our daughter and my husband jumped over to cover her up. The bee instantly stung him right between the eyes. Here you see the stinger and venom sac and the true photo of what it feels like right after a sting to the face.
Did you know that bees know to sting near the eyes and face? Think about it - how else can they stop a bear?
A honeybee sting (usually painful and sometimes life-threatening to those allergic) is usually a form of defense for the bee herself or, more often, for the colony. Though bees are known for this behavior, many people don't know that a honeybee dies when she stings, so she is not apt to attack without being provoked. Her stinger is barbed and connected to the digestive tract, so it is pulled out along with the stinger.
If you see a honeybee or a hive, please leave it alone. Don't swat or make agitated movements, if you can help it. If you are stung, remove the stinger with an upward scrape from a credit card or something rigid, since squeezing the venom sac or leaving it in the tissue increases the amount of venom released and, therefore, increases the symptoms. You should also leave the immediate area since alert pheromones are released with a sting that signal other bees to come and defend the colony.
Although I don't like to focus on stings too much, due to preconceived ideas people can have about bees, the reality is that they happen - especially for beekeepers. The more we learn about bee behavior, though, the more we can identify warning signs and do our best to prevent stings for ourselves and others.
Reflecting on all of this, I thank God that He made something very small still able to defend itself and its colony against large and almost unbeatable predators and dangers- almost unbeatable. Against all kinds of odds, these tiny, extremely intricate creatures have survived through the ages and make some of the most beautiful bounty possible. Honey is one of the few foods capable of sustaining life all by itself!
I don't always talk about my faith here, but tonight (and what feels like many times lately after hearing the news), I reflect on how, although I love to learn and teach about beekeeping, the whole process often teaches me about life. I pray that Jesus Christ lifts us up when we feel small and helpless, that we have the strength to do our part to defend others in danger, that we can recognize the sacrifices of others so that we can live. I pray that we give ourselves to the work and risk of living in hope for the future, against odds even, to the work of being part of making something beautiful and life-sustaining.