She Stung My Chin

I could turn this into a really long story but the punch line says it all, yesterday one of my sweet little bees stung me. Darn Her!

Okay, now comes the long story. Frank and I were robbing honey which is no big deal. Frank and I found the Queen of Hive 1 laying eggs in the top super. No big deal and not as surprising as it should be (we are almost positive we caused this when trying to trap her in the brood box at the last inspection). But, go figure, the bees didn’t really like me squatting, holding the frame containing their monarch over their upturned hive lid while Frank flung boxes and frames around giving me access to the actual brood box (in name only since all the brood is now in the top super). Okay, before you experienced beekeepers point out I should have just moved the super to below the brood box (since our supers and brood boxes are exactly the same size) I must confess that our brood box is nailed to the bottom board so this simple manoeuvre isn’t possible. We didn’t nail the bottom board and brood together, the guy who sold us the boxes did. We really need to pry them apart some day but not today.

As Frank was flinging and I was squatting I had one job, keep my eye on the queen. If she fell she’d land in the lid and we could get her into the brood box. If she flew, well, I guess I’d just watch it happen. But Frank was really insistent on me keeping my “eye on the queen”! Which leads us to the punch line. While I was so engrossed, my net must have brushed up against my face and some observant bee took the chance to sting me on my chin. (I am not including photos of the queen here because I was too busy in the heat of the battle to take any.)

This was my first sting while beekeeping (I’ve had 2 minor brushes while gardening) and a full assault and so I said “ouch” about 3 times. Before I could decide whether or not it really hurt, another bee stung me (or tried to) through my 2 shirts and overalls. I felt it but I could tell the stinger was gone and it wasn’t a big deal. I had a quick flash of a coordinated attack on my person but realised I didn’t have any option so I squatted and kept my eye on the queen.

Moments later, Frank had the space free, I slid the frame (my eye still on the queen) into the lowest box (now again the real brood box) of the hive, we re-stacked the boxes and put back on the lid.

We then walked around the garden a bit until the unhappy bees left us alone. Frank pointed out the stinger was still sticking in my chin. I pointed out there wasn’t anything I could do about it until I had my gloves and net off.

And then, the bees went back to doing normal bee stuff and I liberated myself from bee clothing and bee stinger.

Here’s the offending item. You can see the string of intestine running up from the base of the stinger to my finger. This is why bees always die when they sting you, they are rather dependent on that part of their innards. (No cheap comments about dirty finger nails please. Remember, I’d been harvesting honey with leather gloves on for an hour before this photo was taken.)

Bee Stinger

Bee Stinger

Yes it stung. But I’d say in much less than 1 minute the initial fire was gone. It became nothing more than a minor throb and then really reduced to nothing more than a numb thickness. It hurt when I touched it (no leaning of head on hand for me) but now, 16 hours later, I hardly notice it and there is nothing more than a minor red spot on my chin. I was expecting something much more dramatic from my first full sting – boy am I glad to be disappointed!

The big upside to this whole incident is that it earned me high praise from my hubby. Once we were wearing normal clothing and spinning honey out of the robbed frames he said “you were really brave”. I was feeling all warm inside and then he christened me with my new nick-name: “fatty chin”. He’s such a romantic!

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About Laura Rittenhouse

I'm an American-Australian author, gardener and traveller. Go to my writing website: www.laurarittenhouse.com for more. If you're trying to find my gardening blog, it's here.
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24 Responses to She Stung My Chin

  1. pattigail says:

    Ouch! Bee stings hurt a surprising amount. But then you WERE taking their honey.😉 Patti

    • It actually doesn’t hurt a surprising amount. At least not to me. I think I am one of the lucky ones that doesn’t get much of a reaction. I’ve heard of people having to give up beekeeping because of violent reactions to stings. Me, it’s just a slight nuisance – my psychological than physical.

  2. Oh I cant believe that you continued to stay there with your eye on the queen while that was in your chin! ouch! I am so happy that other wonderful people do the hard stuff so that I can buy my honey in bottles 🙂

  3. Linda says:

    I can’t believe you stayed so calm! I bet every beekeeper remembers their first sting! I was asking for it when I got stung as I never wore the protective bee garments…sometimes I’d wear the head veil, but that was it. I got mine when we were trying to clear the big, black carpenter ants from the hive lid…and I felt something on my leg and assumed it was one of those nasty ants! When I went to brush it off, I accidentally smashed my bee and she stung me in response. I really thought it was just a bite from an ant…it really didn’t feel any different and I only realized it was a bee when I looked down at it.

    • How brave (aka stupid) of you to go chasing critters in a beehive without your full suit. I guess that was a lesson learnt.

      I agree, a bee sting doesn’t feel a lot different than an ant bite. It’s all psychological when you hear that buzzing…..

      • Linda says:

        Haha! You wouldn’t believe the number of horror stories I’ve heard about many bees getting caught and trapped INSIDE the suit! Enough to scare you off the full suits! Lol.

  4. Congratulations on this rite of passage. We recommend cortisone cream.

    • I guess it’s like being keelhauled on a ship when you cross the equator for the first time. Not pleasant but it feels great when it’s behind you.

      • Even better. This fun experience can be repeated. Or at least variations of it as the girls find other parts to sting. Thus far one of us remains unstung by our bees and the other has gotten one on the hand and one, while unsuited, on the face cheek.

        • Well, unsuited is really playing Russian Roulette.

          I’m not convinced I would call the experience “fun” and wouldn’t it be nice if it was never repeated. But I know my chance of that is zero. Maybe one day I’ll be a confident (and thick skinned) enough beekeeper to not use gloves. I’ve met many who don’t and they just scratch at any stings with their hive tool. I’m pretty sure they get stung every time, they just find that less of a hassle than wearing gloves.

          • One of us never wears gloves and has acquired only a single sting to the hand. The other wears nitrile gloves to mask scent rather than act as armor and is unstung thus far. The unsuited face sting, well, that was pushing it. Out general rule is to suit up if we are opening the occupied part of the hive but not always bother if we are just changing feeder bags in the unoccupied part. This time we were going into the occupied part just for a second. We will surely be back out before they notice. Well, no.

            • Yeah, they are observant little things.

              We were robbing honey, inspecting the brood, moving frames between boxes and going into both hives and the nuc. If that didn’t get alarm bells going, nothing would.

              I’m still not sure about not wearing gloves though. Often bees just sort of circle checking me out but it seems to be getting more common for some of them to attack and leave their stinger in my glove. If I was going to go gloveless I’d definitely requeen. My bees aren’t super aggressive but they aren’t pussy cats like some I’ve seen either. But boy do they make honey and control any pests and diseases in the hive so I don’t think I want to change things up just to keep them off my gloves.

              • Might previous stings be leaving pheromone of some kind in the gloves to encourage more stinging? Some beeks will smoke the site of a sting after removing the stinger if they must keep working the hives.

                • I do smoke my gloves to get rid of the pheromone but, if it works, it certainly doesn’t totally stop the bees if they’re angry. Hubby and I have discussed it’s time to wash our gear again. Could be there’s a build up and so they are angry as soon as we open the hives. In fact, I might just wash them today and see if the bees are back to being friendly when next I open the hive.

  5. It is a real mark of dedication continuing with a beesting stuck in your chin! Was this the Houdini queen that does remarkable escapes?

    • It was Ms Houdini. We found the tiniest of gaps in the excluder and closed that off (we think). We suspect her other magical moves are caused by us thinking we know where she is when we don’t.

      All complaints aside, this hive is so healthy. There are about 400 million bees in there and almost all of them are out foraging every day. The fact that harvesting honey is slightly problematic because brood keeps popping up where it is least expected is hardly a high price to pay for a happy, healthy, productive hive. Maybe I should move the queen randomly around in my other hive and see if she gets more productive 🙂

  6. Oh well, it had to happen some time I suppose, its all part of being a bee keeper. You are lucky you don’t react to a bee sting. When I get stung I swell up like a barage balloon, not a pleasant sight!!

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