February 7th, 2015 was a beautiful day! The dead of winter seemed to have lifted for a moment in time. The sun was shining and I could feel my Vitamin D levels rising. 62 degrees never felt so warm! This was the perfect day to crack open my hive for a brief inspection. I group texted my interns (that’s what the kids do these days) and invited them to join me.

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I was so excited to open the hives for the first time in months! I showed the interns how to light the smoker, how to use the hive tool to pry off the lids, and how to inspect the frames. Then, out of the blue, I felt a tickle on my ankle. I looked down and saw a worker bee holding onto my thin white sock with all her might, flexing her abdomen downward, ready for battle. She had fulfilled her destiny before I could brush her away. The stinger had been deployed…. straight through my sock and into my ankle. I will admit, it hurt. However, I knew what to do alleviate some of the pain as quickly as possible. This little trick is one I’d like to share with y’all!

The trick is to remove the stinger. Easier said than done when your skin feels like it is throbbing while producing flames simultaneously. However, you must manage to refrain from flailing like a fool for just 15 seconds.

    1. First, it is crucial to know that you should NOT rub or pinch this area. That can cause the full amount of venom from the stinger to makes its way into your skin, causing a more painful reaction.
    2. Next you must quickly identify the point of contact and find the stinger, which will be protruding from your skin. See the picture below that I took of my ankle on that day. If you look closely near the center of the photo, you will see an auburn color sliver sticking up from my skin (not to be confused with my leg hair I hadn’t shaved that day!).
    3. You want to scratch the stinger off of your skin. I use my fingernail because it is just long enough to have an edge. However, a hive tool or anything with an edge within your reach should word. Take your fingernail or tool and hold it firmly at a 45 degree angle in front of the sting and scrape, just like you would if your skin had an itch (think – Gillette razor commercial).
    4. Presto! The stinger will be pulled out of you skin, preventing the venom from further injecting. The key here is speed. The quicker you can get the stinger out, the less pain or swelling you will likely encounter.

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Stings are a part of being a beekeeper. Lots of good practices can be implemented to reduce the amount, but they are nearly impossible to eliminate entirely. The dark but good news, that I can vouch for, is that they become less painful as I receive more of them.

Keep your bees buzzin’ y’all!