Are you considering raising bees? Are you someone who would like to help out the bee population by planting a pollinator garden?
These are great things and things we do around our homestead. However, it’s essential to have a solid understanding of bees before inviting them to your property.
There’s still much we don’t know about these fascinating creatures, but one thing is sure, bees are mighty little creatures who defend themselves with ferocity.
Before you purchase your hive or catch the swarm or before you begin planting your pollinator garden, let’s discuss what you should know about surviving a bee attack.
Here are the tips you need to know and teach your kids, and any other person that might be on your property fairly regularly.
1. Bees Aren’t Dogs
The first thing you must understand when raising bees or inviting them to your property is they aren’t pets.
Many people assume because these creatures make us delicious honey, they fly around flowers, pollinate our food, they must be sweet or trainable. In short, they aren’t.
These are wild insects doing a job. They get little sleep during certain parts of the year, they have short life spans during the warmer months, and their focus is on the task at hand.
Therefore, if you get in their way and make them feel threatened in the slightest, they’ll defend themselves for the good of the hive.
It’s also important to remember when a honey bee stings you; they insert their stinger into your skin. Your skin is tough and will cause the stinger to rip the honey bee’s abdomen when they try to remove it.
In most cases, honey bees won’t sting unless they deem you a serious threat to their hive or themselves.
There are a few exceptions to this rule, but in general, you must be seen as a threat for a bee to sting.
2. Don’t Defend Yourself
If a bee attacks you, the worst thing you can do is defend yourself. When the bee inserts its venom into you, they put off a pheromone which alerts other bees around them of the danger you’re presenting.
Other bees will be drawn to attack you as well. When bees attack as a group, it can become dangerous and life-threatening for you.
If you’re stung by a bee and you’re not wearing a protective bee suit, don’t stand around and swat at the bee.
Instead, you should sprint as fast as you can away from the bee. In most cases, the bee will follow you, and any other bees it alerts.
Which is why it’s important to run instead of swat. If you’re swatting at the bees, you’re only agitating them more, and not doing anything to get them away from you.
Avoid this natural reaction when being stung. Remember, don’t swat—run!
3. Head for Shelter
The next step you must take in a bee attack is to run for shelter. It does no good to run into an open area with bees on your trail.
They’re fast flyers, and unless you’re super fit, you most likely will not be able to outrun them. If you’re near a garage, house, or a car you should head there.
You may have a couple of bees with you who slipped through the door before you get into the shelter, but most will be kept outside once you are in a shelter.
The few remaining bees can be killed while you’re inside the shelter. Be sure to hunker down in the shelter for a decent period of time to give the bees a chance to go back to their business and forget about you.
As mentioned, we raise bees on our farm. There have been times when our bees had an older queen in the hive (which can cause them to develop a more aggressive temperament), and they chased me through our yard and into the house.
Be aware; bees are extremely fast. I was stunned by how far they followed me, but thankfully, I was able to run into the house to escape all but a hand full. It’s a scary and painful experience to go through, but it’s important to know what to do in these situations.
4. Create Shelter If One Isn’t Around
Let’s say you’re in a field, and there’s no shelter near-by. What should you do? I’ve been in this particular situation as well.
When raising bees, they’re great for your garden. However, don’t be surprised when they get territorial over it. Your garden is their food supply.
It’s common on our farm to be chased from the garden when you’re harvesting green beans or squash. These are some of our bees’ favorites.
Yet, when I’m on a 10-acre farm, I’m not near a shelter at all times. In these cases, it’s important to head for any brush or trees you can find.
Sometimes, I’ll run into the tree line. Other times, if your corn is taller, you can run into it. It distracts the bees and keeps them from stinging you.
If bees are on your tail, and you have no shelter, run for the tallest brush you can find. This can be the difference between a close encounter and a life-threatening situation.
5. Fire Extinguishers Are Handy
Some people have been attacked in their field while on their farm equipment. In cases like this, it’s a good idea to keep a fire extinguisher nearby.
The blast from the extinguisher can be enough to kill the bees which are attacking you. Performing this act on yourself would be difficult though.
This tip is most helpful if you’re standing by when aggressive bees are attacking someone. Grab an extinguisher as quickly as possible and spray in the direction of the bees, and the person being attacked.
Once the bees have simmered down, grab the individual, and take them to a shelter where no other bees can follow.
6. Don’t Jump in Water
One huge mistake many people make when being chased or attacked by bees is jumping into water. There are quite a few issues with this line of thinking.
First, many people get attacked around their homes. One of the most common bodies of water in residential places are pools.
Well, the issue with pools is they attract bees. Bees need water, and bees also like chlorine which is a common component in most pools. If you don’t want to attract bees to your pool, try treating your pool water with salt.
The next issue is the water only helps while you’re under it. You’ll eventually have to come up for air. When you’re trying to breathe, the bees will sting you.
Finally, when clothing becomes wet, it sticks to you. Therefore, when you finally try to make a run from the pool, the clothing which once protected you will now be skin-tight and not offer much protection at all.
In short, when you’re running from bees, don’t run to water. If it offers any relief, it’ll be extremely temporary, and could cause greater harm in the long run.
7. Remove Stingers
When you finally escape the bees which have been hunting you down, be sure to remove the stingers. While the stingers are in your skin, they’ll continuously pump venom into your body. This venom causes allergic reactions and the wound to swell.
Therefore, use the edge of a credit card to scrape your skin and remove the stingers. The less time they’re in your body, the less chance of the venom harming you.
However, be aware, bee venom is potent. It can cause considerable reactions in the body in short periods of time. Move quickly and keep an eye on the wounds which have been inflicted on you.
8. Seek Medical Treatment
If once in a while you get one minor bee sting, it’s normal for people to remove the stingers, take a Benadryl, and watch the wound to make sure they don’t have any adverse reactions.
However, when you’ve had a swarm of bees attack you, it’s important to seek medical attention. Even if you aren’t allergic to bees, you could have an adverse reaction because of the amount of venom injected into your system at one time.
It’s common for a bee sting to become red and swell. It’s also common for it to itch. When you have a severe allergic reaction, your skin could break out into hives, you could have difficulty breathing or swallowing, your heart could race, dizziness can occur, nausea and vomiting can occur, and some will even faint.
When you begin experiencing these symptoms, you’re in trouble. Therefore, it’s important to seek medical treatment after a bee attack.
A medical professional can monitor you, give you any medications which could help you avoid such extreme reactions, and should also be able to catch signs of a severe reaction before it gets out of hand.
A Few Quick Questions
1. Is a Bee ‘Bump’ a Sign of Attack
I’ve seen this question floating around the internet about bee attacks. I’ve also seen a wide variety of answers.
Sadly, some of the responses are inaccurate. My husband and I have raised honey bees for five years, and we’ve dedicated a great deal of time to researching these creatures to better care for them.
In our experience, bees are curious creatures. They’re also complex, and scientists still don’t understand everything about them.
However, when a bee ‘bumps’ you, it could be for numerous reasons. Bees will bump into you while you’re working in their hive because they’re curious who you are, what you’re doing, and are trying to figure you out.
They don’t have hands or fingers like we do to feel things which is why they use their entire body to ‘bump.’
Another reason a bee could bump you is that you’re sweating. Sometimes bees will hang around you because they like to drink your sweat. If you have a hair product or perfume on, they could also confuse you with a flower.
There are many reasons bees could ‘bump’ into you. Don’t panic or begin to swat if they do. Remain calm and only react if you’re feeling confident the bee perceives you as a threat.
Many times, you can deter a bee attack by merely running, heading for brush, and eventually indoors until the bee moves on. This is becoming a common gardening practice for me.
2. Should You Exterminate Bees to Avoid Attack?
It’s also common for people to ask if we should start exterminating bees since many are becoming more aggressive.
In short, no we shouldn’t. European bees are the more common domesticated honey bee. Over the years, Africanized bees have also made their way to the United States too.
Many bees you come across are now a hybrid of the two. This can be an issue because Africanized bees are more aggressive.
However, bees still have an important job. If you have a colony of bees you’re raising which is becoming more aggressive, try ordering a new queen with good genetics. Here genes will replace many of the hostile ones, and this should help calm your hive down quite a bit.
Though some bees are hard to handle, we shouldn’t begin exterminating bees out of fear. If you have a wild hive which is terrorizing your home and family, call a local beekeeper.
They may be able to relocate the bees for you safely, requeen the hive themselves, and make the world a little safer without exterminating the bees in question.
These few tips are sure to help in the event you’re attacked by bees. I also hope the common questions listed above will give you more insight on how to handle difficult bee situations and make you less fearful of some of the world’s tiniest creatures with one of the biggest jobs.