So. Spring kicked my ass again.
I won’t pretend to be all blasé-beekeeper and tell you that bee stings don’t hurt. They do. (Try to get the stinger out of your skin as fast as you can. Apply ice and and take a Benadryl.)
Many beekeepers’ bodies build an immunity to bee venom through continuous occasion exposure (aka continuous occasional bee stings) - they say the stings are still painful but the reaction to the venom diminishes. I am not one of those beekeepers.
I have what’s called a Large Local Response to bee venom. Meaning that when I get stung in the shoulder, my entire arm swells so much that I can’t wear a shirt with sleeves. For 10-14 days. Which? Is inconvenient and distracting but carries with it no greater risk of anaphylactic response. Cool.
Three weeks after my bees swarmed (I couldn’t wait any longer) I did a hive inspection to try to determine whether the colony had successfully re-queened. A hive inspection is both delicate and strenuous - heavy lifting plus careful scrutiny plus trying not to crush anyone to death, all while sweating profusely in a cumbersome bee suit and elbow-length leather gloves.
The bees were agitated and I carelessly let my face press against my mask as I bent clean a frame and got stung, through the mask, under the chin. And my face swelled up like a balloooooon! It was uncomfortable and unsightly.
When my neck started to swell I thought: this seems bad. Driving your own giant face to the emergency clinic before your airway closes is totally badass, and way better than driving after your airway closes but still not advised. Don’t do that.
To be clear, I was not in anaphylactic shock, which is super serious and possibly fatal, but I did get a shot of epinephrine, a steroid shot, and a course of antibiotics and now I’m good as new! The bee colony, on the other hand, may not be good as new. I couldn’t find a new queen or any evidence of her existence.