I’ve been keeping bees for 4 years now. Between Darek and I, we manage 10-11 hives throughout neighborhoods in Chicago. In my time of keeping bees, I’ve been stung about 20 times. In the first couple years, reactions were local with redness and some swelling.
Towards the end of last year’s beekeeping season, I noticed my reactions to bee stings had been getting worse. To my understanding, they were still considered local reactions and not a sign of an allergy, however I did notice that reactions used to be a lot smaller and more local. For instance, when I get stung in the fingertip my whole hand swells up extending halfway down my forearm. Yes – this is considered a normal reaction.
This spring, I’ve been stung 3 times. The reaction from my first sting was not bad, but may have been because it had been 7 months since my last sting which lessened the reaction. Then last week a bee got under my jacket and stung me twice through my shirt. She did not lose her stinger on the first sting because the stinger did not fully insert into my skin. Swelling was mild and I felt fine, but hours later I started to have hives across my stomach. I actually didn’t notice, but Becky did. I didn’t think too much of it. In the above photo, this was right after the sting. The red mark was the second sting, the first was just below and a lot smaller. No hive reaction had yet occurred in this photo.
Days later after sharing this story with some friends at work, they had a bit of an intervention with me regarding their worries about me continuing to keep bees after hearing of my reactions to the stings. After further research I found that after having a reaction with hives, chances of an anaphylactic reaction greatly increase on the next sting. Pretty scary – and sad.
At the end of last season, I got a prescription for an epipen to have it, but never filled it. I will now be filling the prescription as I am convinced I have developed an allergic to bee stings. I might add that I wear full gear- hooded jacket, gloves, gaiters around my ankles. But it is inevitable that you get stung. In fact, I don’t get stung while inspecting, it is usually after I walk away from the site and brush off and remove my gear or get into my car.
Going forward, I have an appoint with an Allegist/Immunologist at Northwestern who may be able to get me on a bee therapy plan where I receive bits of allergens over a period of time (I’ve read anywhere from 12 months to 5 years). There is also something called rush immunology, which would take affect quicker but not last as long, still requiring the long term therapy.
Here I had two bees crawl up my pants and had to remove my pants temporarily. This was before I knew I was allergic. Boy that would not have been good!
I’ve grown quite fond of beekeeping and don’t want end my adventures, but also don’t want to put my life at risk!
Some newly installed bees building foundationless comb. Hard at work!
Here is some more newly built comb but it was between frames. It is referred to as burr comb. We made use of this and reinserted it into another empty frame.
Another fascinating observation- here are two queens from separate hives. The one on the right is far darker than the light colored one on the left. This is probably the darkest queen I have every come across.
When we received our new bees this year, we picked up 6 packages from Lee Heine in Waterton, WI. Darek and I drove up there one morning, loaded them up, and headed back to Chi-town for the installations.
For this method of installation, I placed the package directly in the hive in place of 10 frames. It was too cold to do the traditional pouring of bees. I would later return to the site and remove the empty package from the hive.
This is what you see more of for package installations. You’ll notice I left the frame after pouring because things got a little crazy. I was able to pour this one because at this point in the day, things warmed up a bit and the sun was shining. If I could get the package in there and not need to disturb them again for a while, that would be great.
And finally this is a queen cage covered in bees. The bees are simply attracted to the pheromone scent of the queen are probably trying to tend to her with food and cleaning. Wouldn’t that be nice!