Treating Bee Stings

Bee Sting and Treating Bee Stings
With the arrival of the North American summer comes the risk of bee stings. Bees are not normally aggressive. The honey bee or bumble bees will rarely attack a human except when threatened. Most bee stings occur close to a hive. Then it is a matter of defense by the loyal colony.

Characteristic of the honey bee is that its sting is barbed. This is unlike the bumble bee which does not have barbed stings. When stung by a honey bee the barb remains in the skin and tears the poison sack out of the bee's abdomen, killing it. However the poison sack will continue to release toxins into the victim until it is removed.

Bee venom is a complex mixture of proteins and histamine causing rapid swelling and pain. At the same time that the toxins are injected pheromones, chemical scents are released by the bee to attract other bees from the hive to its defense.

It is important to teach children to recognize bees and to know that this social insect is not normally aggressive and to leave them alone.

However, since 1990 a more aggressive hybrid bee has been found in North America and is increasing its population. This "Africanized" bee was the result of experiments in Brazil in the 1950s. It is important to know about this bee as its radius of aggression is much larger than native species, up to 100 ft from the hive. It will also remain aggressive for days after being aroused. Right now it is confined to the South Western States and parts of Florida.

Treating Bee Stings in Three Steps
Bee sting treatments combine modern medical attention with tried and tested folklore.

Step 1.
Immediately remove the bee sting. This is an important point to know in first aid treatment of bee stings, as research has shown that the sack will continue to release poison for hours after the dying bee has flown off. You will be able to see the sting clearly. Use a credit card or a knife and press this across the skin at a 45 degree angle to remove the barb and the poison sack.

Step 2.
If there is a history or risk of anaphylaxis, which is an accelerated immune reaction to stings, seek immediate medical attention. This should be considered an emergency. The victim will often know their risk and carry medication.

Step 3.
Reduction of pain and swelling can be achieved by applying ice to the area if it is available. Other treatments include using moist baking soda, vinegar, toothpaste or even chewing a few leaves of the herb Plantain and putting the wet bolus on the sting. But the plant has to be available and you have to know it by sight.

Best of all is to not get stung. Do remember that bees are not naturally aggressive unless provoked. Also, learn to recognize the difference between a bee and other stinging insects such as wasps. Make sure your children know this too.

Respect and unaggressive behavior towards bees is your best defense.

Rowan Hamilton is an herbalist and writes for about treating bee stings, among many other health topics. For more information on the subject, visit Rowan's video on treating bee stings. Also visit for other health related topics like rheumatoid arthritis relief -

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