Are winter bee stings worse than others?
Tuesday afternoon was clear and bright, so I went outside to enjoy the balmy sixty-degree sunshine. Bees were flying every which way, so I walked past my garden hives just to see how many bees were outside doing stuff. Lots, it turns out, and they were hauling in a rainbow of pollen.
Once back in the house, I kept feeling an odd sensation on my ankle. I was wearing an old pair of army fatigues—the kind that have ribbon ties at the ankle—so I reached down and re-tied the left one. That seemed to solve the problem, and I continued doing household chores for another couple of hours.
She waited for the right moment
Finally, just before dinner I was cooking at the stove when I suddenly shrieked. I felt like I’d been stabbed in the left thigh with a red-hot poker. It was sudden and excruciating, although I knew exactly what it was. I grabbed my thigh, moaned, and bent double. Then I shook my pant leg until she fell out on the kitchen floor. Dead.
The pain didn’t last long, and I soon forgot about the whole thing. The dog ate the bee which saved me the trouble of picking her up, and life was back to normal. That is, until I changed my clothes.
I couldn’t believe my eyes: the welt on my thigh was a good four inches across, swollen into a hot-to-the-touch circle with a white center and a crimson outline all around the edge. I never saw such a thing before. It looked horrible. Today, two days later, it hasn’t gone away.
The stings of winter
This sting reminded me of the post I wrote last December called “The stings of winter.” My theory was that winter stings are worse than summer stings. I explained how I barely react to stings in spring and summer, but I get big burning, itchy welts from winter bees.
Many of the commenters agreed and said they had similar experiences. Some people thought I was developing an allergy. Some people said they always react that way, no matter what the season.
Now that a year has gone by, I can say for sure that I did not develop an allergy. As in previous years, the cycle repeated. I hardly noticed spring and summer stings this year, but this first winter sting was a killer.
Theories but no answers
I’ve never found any information on this topic, but I now believe that the different physiology of winter bees includes a more powerful sting. This is just theory, of course. But it could be more venom, more concentrated venom, or different venom. It could be an adaptation that winter bees developed in order to better defend their colony. Then again, it could be my imagination.
So once again, I’d like to hear what you have to say. Have you been paying attention? Are the stings of winter worse? And if so, why?
Honey Bee Suite