When the warm weather comes and flowers start to blossom, they inevitably signal our buzzy fuzzy friends: the honeybees. Honeybees are a crucial part of our food ecosystem and are generally gentle insects. But, if you’ve ever gotten stung by one of them, you know firsthand the downside to honeybees.
Bee stings can be painful, and in cases of severe allergies, life-threatening. It is wise to do what you can to avoid getting stung in the first place. Knowledge is power — the more you know about bees, the safer you can be around them.
Here are a few bee facts you can remember when you’re enjoying the great outdoors.
Bees are attracted to bright colors — but not red.
Insects can’t see the color red (it appears as black to them), but bees are naturally attracted to purple, blue, and yellow. The brightly colored petals of a flower signify “pollen here!” to a bee, and so they gravitate toward those colors. When bees get angry, they tend to attack dark colors. This is because their natural predator, the bear, is large and dark.
Tip to avoid stings: Avoid wearing brightly colored clothing, especially in the blue and purple color families. Avoid wearing highly contrasting colors or patterns. Lighter colors like pastels and white are good options. To an angry bee, white is not a threatening color (no beehive has ever been threatened by a polar bear!). This is why beekeeper suits are usually white.
Bees’ primary sense is smell — and they are attracted to sweet scents.
Along with a bee’s sense of sight, smell is the other thing that attracts them to flowers. And how do flowers smell? Sweet! Bees are not fond of peppermint, cinnamon, citrus, and eucalyptus smells.
Tip to avoid stings: Avoid wearing perfumes and scented lotions. For personal care products like soap and deodorant, use unscented varieties. Even the laundry detergent you use can attract bees, so look for unscented options there, too. Otherwise, use products scented with citrus, mint, or eucalyptus oils to keep bees at bay.
While honeybees are not as notorious as wasps when it comes to food, bees can be attracted to sweet-smelling foods or drinks that are outdoors, also. Exercise caution by keeping food covered and drinking from clear plastic cups instead of enclosed soda cans.
Bees only attack when they feel threatened.
They get a bad rap due to the sting, but honeybees only sting when they feel threatened or need to defend their hive. (Consequently, a honeybee will die after it stings a human or other mammal. Talk about loyalty to the cause!)
Tip to avoid stings: If a bee is around you, don’t panic, or make sudden movements. Hold your breath (so they don’t smell the carbon monoxide you exhale). Move away slowly or just be still and wait for it to fly away.
Bees may warn you before they attack.
When a colony of bees is threatened, they will often send out a couple of bees to alert the predator that it is encroaching upon their territory. They will gently bump into the perceived threat, serving a warning before the rest of the swarm would attack.
Tip to avoid stings: If a bee bumps into you, again, don’t swat at it, but you should be on high alert. A bump doesn’t always mean an attack is coming. Sometimes bees are just curious and trying to determine if you’re a flower! But if there is more than one bee buzzing around you or bumping you, or you suspect you are near a hive, you want to be better safe than sorry. Run and take cover in some form of shelter, like a car or building.
Bees aren’t the only thing that buzz.
Of course, there are other stinging insects besides honeybees, like hornets and yellowjackets, even bumblebees, that can ruin an otherwise lovely day outdoors. Unfortunately, it is sometimes difficult to tell them all apart. Arming yourself with knowledge, and taking appropriate precautions against our buzzy friends will go a long way into making sure your time outdoors is fun and safe!
What if I get stung?
Most bee stings can be treated by removing the stinger, applying a cold compress, and applying a cortisone cream. In cases of severe allergic reaction, including difficulty breathing and widespread hives, go to the emergency room immediately.
Otherwise, if the site of the sting appears to become infected, or if the sting is around the eye area, you may want to visit your doctor. In and Out Express Care has four urgent care locations in Hampton Roads. Come in if you have questions or concerns. We’d bee glad to see you.