Friday, May 05, 2006

The Bees Knees

Today I decided that sometimes it is definitely not advantageous s to be a woman. I was the only woman out on a job site this morning, supervising a crew of three laborers and twelve truck drivers. Our site is way up in a canyon that is densely populated by oil wells, snakes, and honey bees. And no bathroom. Those of the male sex don’t seem to have much of a problem with the lack of facilities. They can saunter off into the field and enjoy the view while taking care of important business. I, on the other hand, cannot. The matter was brought painfully to my attention today when I was stung by a bee on the posterior (well, very lower back). Not only was it rather painful, it was quite embarrassing. I couldn’t exactly drop my drawers in the middle of the site to inspect the damage. I had to drive to another job site, an hour away, also with no facilities, so that a co-worker (and friend) could verify that yes, indeed, I had a huge pink welt but no remaining stinger. Talk about embarrassing!! J I think I’m going to invest in a portable pop-up tent that women can erect to give them a bit of privacy in the field.
I would like to point out here one common error regarding bee stings: Most stings from insects are commonly referred to as "bee stings"; however, the vast majority of these stings are actually administered by hornets or wasps (you are probably familiar with the common Yellow Jacket). Female honeybees have a barb on the end of their stinger that actually pulls their abdomen apart when they sting, quickly killing them. Yellow Jackets have no barb, which allows them to sting multiple times and allows them to keep living. The next time you are stung (hopefully never), look at your wound, if there is a stinger visible (and sometimes part of the abdomen), you were likely stung by a honeybee (which is relatively rare). Yellow Jackets are scavengers and are often observed around food and trash. They are also aggressive and will sting without much provocation. Honeybees are usually very mellow and will only sting when their hive is in danger (or if you sit on them, like I did today). Yellow Jacket (Above)


  1. Anonymous9:40 PM

    ...africanized honey bees are also more likely to sting than European honey bees. In your part of the country, it's likely that you were stung by an africanized bee!

    Also, if you find the stinger, you should scrape it out instead of trying to pull it out--often, the poison sac will remain attached to the stinger, pumping more poison into the wound, and if you squeeze it as you're pulling it out, you will do more harm than good. Instead, the stinger should be scraped out with something like a credit card or the like.

    In any case, bee stings suck. Ouch!

  2. How very true! Recently, a couple residents here in Santa Ana have discovered large hives of africanized honey bees living in various parts of their homes. I am also more inclined to believe they were africanized bees due to the fact that one of my co-workers and a few employees of the oil company were literally chased by a small swarm of the bees the next day when they ventured too close to their hive. My parents used to have honey bees when I was a little tyke and I never remembered being "chased" by the bees when I got too close to the boxes. Of course, that was a while ago and I could have conveniently forgotten that handy bit of information.
    Were you warned about africanized bees while in Costa Rica? I guess a grad student was killed several years ago on the OTS program by "killer bees". I was lectured on this fact because I used to go out running in the mornings; however, I was honestly more worried about stepping on a fer de lance since they blended in so well with all the dead leaves.