Posts Tagged: bee sting
That's the question PBS Newshour asked Extension apiculturist (retired) Eric Mussen of the UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology for its "Just Ask" feature.
Mussen, who retired in June after 38 years of service but continues to maintain an office in Briggs Hall on the UC Davis campus, has been stung plenty of times. And the whole world knew it when this photo of "The Sting" (below) went viral.
When a bee stings, it cannot remove its barbed stinger without yanking out its abdominal tissue, aka "guts." It's basically a suicide mission in defense of its hive. Of the three castes in the colony, only the female worker bee dies when it stings. The queen can sting multiple times. The drone (male) has no stinger.
The stinger is hollow and pointed, like a hypodermic needle, Mussen told PBS Newshour reporter Anna Christiansen. The stinger, he explained, contains two rows of lancets, or saw-toothed blades.
Christianson also quoted Mark Winston, biologist and author of Bee Time: Lessons from the Hive (Harvard University Press) as saying that the blades alternate, “scissoring together into your flesh."
"It looks — and works — like a screw anchor, meaning that once in, the stinger can't retract," Christianson wrote. "Muscles connect the stinger to a venom sac, from which a cell-destroying toxin is pumped into the hole."
Mussen further explains bee stings in a UC Statewide Integrated Pest Management (UC IPM) Pest Note, Bee and Wasp Stings.
"Stingers are effective weapons because they deliver a venom that causes pain when injected into the skin," Mussen wrote. "The major chemical responsible for this is melittin; it stimulates the nerve endings of pain receptors in the skin. The result is a very uncomfortable sensation, which begins as a sharp pain that lasts a few minutes and then becomes a dull ache. Even up to a few days later, the tissue may still be sensitive to the touch."
"The body responds to stings by liberating fluid from the blood to flush venom components from the area. This causes redness and swelling at the sting site. If this isn't the first time the person has been stung by that species of insect, it is likely that the immune system will recognize the venom and enhance the disposal procedure. This can lead to very large swelling around the sting site or in a whole portion of the body. The area is quite likely to itch. Oral and topical antihistamines should help prevent or reduce the itching and swelling. Try not to rub or scratch the sting site, because microbes from the surface of the skin could be introduced into the wound, resulting in an infection."
Mussen says that nearly everyone has been stung by an insect at one time or another., and for beekeepers, it comes with the occupation. "It's an unpleasant experience that people hope not to repeat, but for most people the damage inflicted is only temporary pain," Mussen wrote. "Only a very limited portion of the population—one to two people out of 1,000—is allergic or hypersensitive to bee or wasp stings. Although this publication is about stings from bees and wasps, the information pertains to stings from fire ants as well."
He warns that it is important to remove the stinger immediately because the venom will continue to pump for 45 to 60 seconds following a sting. Mussen usually scrapes and removes the stinger with a fingernail. "Much has been written about the proper way to remove a bee stinger, but new information indicates it doesn't matter how you get it out as long as it is removed as soon as possible. Fingernails or the edge of a credit card are both effective tools. If a stinger is removed within 15 seconds of the sting, the severity of the sting is reduced."
A honey bee embeds its stinger in the wrist of Eric Mussen and then tries to pull away. Note the abdominal tissue trailing. (This is an actual photo of a bee sting; it was not posed.) (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
The bee has pulled away to die, leaving the stinger and abdominal tissue behind. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
A honey bee apparently stung a 47-year-old father on his foot and he went into anaphylactic shock. Rushed to the hospital, he died 10 days later when his kidneys and heart failed. The article reported he was 6 feet, five inches tall, and weighed 17 stones, which is 238 pounds. (One stone equals 14 pounds).
His family indicated he was unaware of his allergic reaction to bee stings.
A sad and tragic case, indeed.
We know of people who have suffered severe allergic reactions and were raced to the hospital in time and fortunately survived. One was a Northern California parks employee who did not know he was allergic to bee stings.
How many people in the United States are allergic to honey bee stings? Approximately one or two out of every 1000 people, says Extension Apiculturist Eric Mussen of the UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology. "The severity of the response, to even a single sting, varies considerably from person to person."
Immediate injections with epinephrine will usually delay the possibility someone unable to breathe. Then a quick trip to a hospital where medical personnel can administrate antihistamines, steroids "and likely more epinephrine" are in order.
"While honey bees away from their hives normally do not pose too much of a sting threat, if the bees are intoxicated by exposure to certain pesticides, they can become an abnormal sting threat at distances quite a ways from the hives. Additionally, individuals who fear a sting, with good reason, sometimes are more apt to try to shoo the bee away. If a bee already is close to stinging, the additional movement of the 'shooer,' or if there is contact with the bee, results in a much greater likelihood of a sting."
Another piece of good advice that Mussen offers: "Individuals who do not appreciate attention by bees should do everything they can to not smell good to a bee. The use of flower-scented or bee products-scented soaps, shampoos, perfumes, or colognes should be avoided. There is no documented scientific study that suggests that honey bees can detect the odor of fear in humans. But if we watch from a distance, the physical reactions of fearful people often tend to be more likely to cause stings than the behavior of the rest of us."
Photographers who capture images of worker bees foraging in flowers are often asked if they've ever been stung. After all, they're just inches away from them. The usual answer: No. The bees are too busy gathering nectar and pollen for their colonies. Stings can and do occur when the worker bees are defending their hives. Or when you accidentally step on one.
Read Mussen's information on bee and wasp stings on the UC Integrated Pest Management (UC IPM) website.
This honey bee, in the process of defending her hive, is stinging Extension apiculturist Eric Mussen of UC Davis. That's her abdominal tissue being pulled out. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
Close-up of two stings. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
Insects outnumber us on this earth.
And they always will. By the millions.
Penny Gullan and and Peter Cranston, emeritus professors of entomology at the University of California, Davis, wrote in their textbook, The Insects (Wiley Blackwell) that "Although there are millions of kinds of insects, we do not know exactly (or even approximately) how many. This ignorance of how many organisms we share our planet with is remarkable considering that astronomers have listed, mapped and uniquely identified a comparable diversity of galactic objects. Some estimates...imply that the species richness of insects is so great that, to a near approximation, all organisms can be considered insects."
So it's good to see that when the website,Twisted Sifter, recently chose "The 50 Most Perfectly Timed Photos Ever," three of them were insects.
One insect photo, which they numbered No. 18 (photo by Tustel Ico) depicted a praying mantis on a bicycle. Another, No. 22, showed an unusual bee sting (taken by yours truly) and the third, No. 46, was of a ladybug by Lentilcia on deviantART.
The bee sting photo, which has gone around the world and back, is of Extension apiculturist Eric Mussen of the UC Davis Department of Entomology getting stung in the apiary of the Harry H. Laidlaw Jr. Honey Research Facility. You can see a trail of the bee's abdominal tissue as the bee tries to pull away.
At the time, we were walking through the apiary when he said "Kathy, get your camera ready. The bee's going to sting me." (See Bug Squad entry.) The bee was defending its hive, which is what bees do.
Mussen, with the Department of Entomology since 1976, plans to retire in June of 2014, but like the Energizer bunny, this photo of the bee sting will probably keep on going.
It went from winning a feature photo contest sponsored by the Association for Communication Excellence (ACE), an international association of communicators, educators and information technologists, to being named the Huffington Post's "Most Amazing Photos of 2012"; one of the Sacramento Bee's top 10 news stories of 2012; and My Science Academy's top photos of the year. Along the way, scores of websites named it "Picture of the Day." It also will appear in a number of books.
It's definitely the bee sting felt around the world.
Honey bee stinging Extension apiculturist Eric Mussen. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
Chris saw it first.
This morning Chris Mussen of Davis contacted his father, Extension apiculturist Eric Mussen of the UC Davis Department of Entomology, and told him that the photo of him being stung by a honey bee made the Sacramento Bee's list of top 15 2012 stories.
Well, a son should recognize his father's wrist anywhere, right?
He told me to get my camera ready. My Nikon D700, equipped with a 105 macro lens and a motor drive), was strapped around my neck, where a camera ought to be.
I caught the image (actually four of them as my camera shoots eight frames a second) and the rest is history. The photo initially won the first-place (gold) award in a feature photo contest sponsored by the international Association for Communication Excellence in Agriculture, Natural Resources, and Life and Human Sciences.
The Sacramento Bee featured it, and later it was selected one of the Huffington Post's most amazing photos of 2012 and "Picture of the Day" on a number of websites.
It depicts a Carniolan bee reared by bee breeder-geneticist Susan Cobey. At the time the image was taken, the bee was defending its hive.
Which is what bees do.
Usually a bee sting results in a clean break, Mussen said. This one shows the bee trailing its abdominal tissue, aka guts.
I earlier wrote about "The Sting" in a Bug Squad blog.
The thing is, people are still saying that I must have spent the day torturing bees to get that shot.
Not true. (Fact is, I've never killed a bee in my life except for the one I stepped on in Hawaii.)
Now folks are jokingly telling me I was torturing Eric Mussen.
Not true, either. He's been stung countless times, and each time, he simply scrapes off the sting with his fingernail.
Which is what beekeepers do.
Extension apiculturist Eric Mussen being stung by a bee in an unexpected encounter at the Harry H. Laidalw Jr. Honey Bee Research Facility, UC Davis. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
When some folks think of a honey bee, they immediately think of stings.
Not pollination, not honey, not colony collapse disorder, but stings.
To beekeepers, stings are a minor irritation, or perhaps not an irritation at all. It's just something that happens in an occupation. "It's like grease on a mechanic's hands," says bee breeder-geneticist Susan Cobey, manager of the Harry H. Laidlaw Jr. Honey Bee Facility at the University of California, Davis.
Or, I imagine, like flour on a baker, dirt on a gardener or sweat on an athlete.
Yesterday, when Extension Apiculturist Eric Mussen of the UC Davis Department of Entomology faculty was opening a hive at the UC Davis apiary, a bee landed on his wrist.
"Bee on my wrist," he said, knowing I had my macro lens at the ready.
The bee, defending her hive, did what a good guard does--she stung him. When that happens, you scrape the stinger off with your fingernail so the barbed stinger with its attached venom sac doesn't continue to pump venom.
When a worker bee stings and pulls away from her victim, part of her anatomy pulls away, too. She dies, often within minutes.
What you usually see is only the stinger. Not this time. The camera lens caught the barbed stinger and the stretched tissue.