I am a beekeeper and I work with many breeds that are very aggressive (but none are as aggressive as the media hype would lead you to believe) so I thought I would post a quick note to explain the technique for evading a group of pissed off bees.
How do bees get pissed? Here are some favorites I have heard/experienced:
- stepping in a nest of ground dwelling bees
- throwing a log full of dormant bees on your campfire and they wake up mad (a favorite of boy scouts)
- stealing honey
- carrying a hive and drop it
- lean on a hive and knock it over
- working bees and they flip out
- operate a weed wacker next to a hive that is touchy
- stick a firecracker in a hive (a favorite of kids)
- just be in the wrong place at the wrong time
A few facts about the stinger/venom itself:
- The stinger's designed to stay in you. A bee is dissemboweled and dies when it stings.
- The bee releases an attack pheremone when it stings that attracts other bees to sting, especially at the sting site.
- Unwashed clothes that have been stung can provoke bees days later.
- Smoke and other scents can mask the pheremone as can covering the sting site.
- The stinger will continue pumping venom in after the bee leaves for over 20 minutes.
- A stinger works it's way deeper through muscular action of the stinger itself.
- A bee can sting through thin clothes like a t-shirt.
- A bee needs to grab on with it's feet to sting, it can be shaken off between the time it grabs and stinger penetration.
- Older bees have more developed venom glands.
- Bee venom is most rapidly neutralized by heat. A lit cigarrette or similar heat source held nearly close enough to burn can stop the venom instantly.
- An average, non-allergic person is disabled by 100-300 stings and killed by 1,000 to 1,100.
- The standard treatment for anaphylactic shock from bee stings is an epipen (epinephrine).
- You need a prescription for an epipen but you do not need to be allergic to get the prescription.
A few quick tidbits about bees that help you strategize:
- Bees will follow you 100' to 1,000 yards depending on various factors/species, they rapidly lose interest and numbers as you get further away.
- Bees easily fly at speeds above 20 MPH.
- Bees are easily confused by physical barriers, bushes etc.
- Bees are drawn to movement more easily seeing you if you wiggle and run. so if they haven't stung yet, move slowly.
- Bees will remain agitated for quite a while once disturbed but will calm down eventually (1 hour to 1 day)
- Aggravated scout bees will return to the hive and get reinforcements, these reinforcements will first go to your last known location. Don't be there.
- Crushing a bee that has not stung will usually cause it to sting.
So let's say you have pissed off some bees by whatever method:
- If you have not been stung at all remain still, they may crawl on you but that doesn't mean they'll sting.
- Once a bee has stung there is no reason not to crush it to prevent it's rallying the troops.
- Running in a zig zag can throw bees off of your trail, but distance is better in open terrain.
- Running in circles around trees and bushes works the best, especially if you are actually in vs next to the branches.
- Circling the bush can bring you back to the bees, so running from bush to bush works better than circling one bush.
- I have heard that hiding under water doesn't work, never tried it though, I would go for distance if instead.
So, here is the skinny:
- When in doubt, run like heck.
- When stung, run like heck.
- Throw them off your trail by running through or around brush/obstacles.
- once you are safe scrape out the stingers. the longer it's in you the more venom you get, so get the stingers out as soon as you can.
- neutralize the stings with heat ASAP. poultices/sting remedies are for later.
- If you are around bees have an epipen, if not for you, for friends/family.
Don't believe the media hype, but be a fool either.