I know it is going to happen, often, and multiple times. I don't necessarily enjoy it. It's just an evitable part of keeping bees. It's getting stung. Two of the most common questions I’m asked about bee keeping are 1) if I get stung and 2) how often. The answer to both are “yes” and “I’ve lost count”.
Interesting facts about bee stings: The stinger is hollow with a barbed end. The whole stinger and sac of venom are torn away from the bee when it stings. The sac continues to pulse after the bee stings, pumping venom into its victim. The sooner you can remove the stinger, the less venom gets injected. One should “flick” the stinger out of the skin instead of pinching it with your fingers or using tweezers to remove it. Squeezing the stinger, with your fingers or tweezers, only injects more venom into the tissue. Statistically, about 1 person out of 100-200 people are allergic to bee stings. Interestingly enough though, about 1 out of every 10 children of commercial beekeepers are allergic to bee stings. The thought is that family members of commercial beekeepers become sensitized to bee venom and bee proteins which may predispose them to having a reaction when actually stung. I’ve read that it’s recommended beekeepers have a separate basket to place clothes worn while working bees and a separate washer to wash them in to avoid any contact with other family member’s clothing.
It's not so much that I can remember every time I get stung, but it often does bring back to mind the worst time I’ve ever been stung. It goes something like this: Time was short, it was getting dark, and as usual I was trying to fit more into my day than I probably should have. I was doing my last hive inspection for the evening as the sun was setting. The bees were no longer in any mood to be fooled with. As I was holding up and inspecting a frame from the colony, some bees must have fallen off the frame and fell right into the arch of some very loose-fitting shoes that I was wearing at the time. As I moved forward, I obviously pinched one of those bees between the arch of my shoe and my foot. Just for the record, bees don't like that. So, I took a sting to the ankle. Hindsight is always 2020, I should have just quit there with one sting and gone home. But oh no - I had to make it worse, much worse. Just by reflex, I knew I had to get that stinger out as soon as possible. So, I retreated from the hive a few steps, and commenced to take my shoe off and pull my black sock down below where I was stung. Another note for the record, bees don't like black socks. They must think there’s a bear under that white bee suit trying to steal their honey. How do I know? As I was pulling my sock down, I took 4 more stings right on my ankle in rapid succession as if someone shot those bees, stinger first, out of a Gatling gun. Ugh, I thought that was bad enough, but it gets worse. So, there I am standing on one leg, the other leg bent up as I try to flick the stingers out of my ankle, a ton of angry bees flying in all directions around my head and I lose my balance enough to force me to place my half-bare foot back on the ground – right in a nice patch of poison ivy. Oh, stupid me!! In the end, I'll have to say that I enjoyed the poison ivy much less than I did the five stings to my ankle. And just as an observation but by no means a recommendation, that Mometavet stuff works pretty darn good on poison ivy. Just saying. The take home on all this: when working bees, don’t be in a rush, don’t wear loose fitting shoes, don’t wear black socks, and watch so you don’t step in poison ivy. I paid a year’s worth of tuition to the school of hard knocks in about five minutes that day!!
That episode of my life brings the words from country music icon Johnny Cash to full light: “I learn from my mistakes. It's a very painful way to learn, but without pain, there is no gain.”
On to other business. One of my goals as President was to set up a program to increase donations to the IVMA Foundation, not only from veterinarians, but from our clients' as well. With the blessing of the IVMA Foundation Board, we will be starting the IVMA Pet Remembrance Scholarship Fund. We hope you will take advantage of this new way to honor your client’s pets and also provide debt relief to new veterinarians. It is my hope that one of us will be one client away from $10, $100, $1000, maybe even a larger donation to the scholarship fund.
James R. Berger, DVM