What to Do If Stung by a Killer Bee?

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Killer bee groups may sting more in defense of their hive.
Killer bee groups may sting more in defense of their hive. (Image: Hemera Technologies/PhotoObjects.net/Getty Images)

Africanized honey bees, or "killer bees," are a version of the honey bee species discovered in the United States in 1990. While their stings pack less potency than those of other honey bees, they tend to be more defensive of their hives and will attack an intruder over longer distances than most honey bees. The best way to avoid any bee attack is to avoid disturbing hives or gathered bee colonies and remove yourself quickly from this danger if attacked.

Stay Informed

Know your risk for an allergic reaction beforehand so you won't panic if stung by a bee. Only 1 percent of the population is allergic to bee stings; in the rest of the population, a sting results in only slight irritation, such as swelling. Due to the small amount of venom a bee injects, it would take nearly 1,000 simultaneous stings for those not allergic to show a severe allergic response. One or two stings will not hurt you even if you've been stung by a killer bee, which has about 27 percent less stinging venom than a European honey bee. Understand this fact and know that odds are you will be fine if stung.

Stinger Removal

Remove the stinger as soon as possible. Venom will begin entering your body about 45 to 60 seconds after the sting. Never pinch the stinger while it is under the skin, which will introduce more painful venom into your skin. Find a flat-edged item such as a knife or your fingernail, and apply it to the stinger with a sideways motion to attempt to get the stinger to release.

Pay Attention

Monitor your body for a reaction to the sting. While everyone will have some swelling around the sting site, the rare case known as a systemic reaction is dangerous. Act quickly if you have a known risk for an allergic reaction to bee stings. Your doctor may have prescribed an epinephrine injectable known as an epi-pen; if so, use it as soon as you remove the stinger. A systemic reaction can begin immediately after the sting. Whether or not you have a known allergy, if you begin to experience swelling of your tongue or throat, dizziness, hives, difficulty breathing or feel faint, seek emergency help immediately.

Aftercare

Refrain from sucking any venom out of your finger. If you have removed the stinger quickly and cleanly within 15 seconds, you will not have enough venom in the wound to worry about, and sucking at or cutting the skin is more likely to cause an infection than clean the wound. Wash the sting site with soap and water. You may want to apply a cold compress or ice pack to sooth the skin and reduce swelling. Take an over-the-counter antihistamine if the swelling becomes too painful.

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