1.877.837.6464

Bee Myths Debunked

06/15/2016

Whether you’re interested in beekeeping or just want to keep your family safe, it’s important to know the facts about bees. In order to do that, we must first dispel the myths.

Photo by: Shutterstock

Bees make it possible for food to reach our table. We have bees to thank for many of our favorite foods, including apples, almonds and the pumpkin in our pies. Honey bees are pollinators that transfer pollen from one flower to another, fertilizing the plant so it can grow and produce food. Without bees to transfer seeds, many crops would die.

Despite their beneficial role in food production, bees are often feared and considered a nuisance. They're also the subject of many myths, old wives’ tales and urban legends. Whether you’re interested in beekeeping or just want to keep your family safe, it’s important to know the facts about bees. In order to do that, we must first dispel the myths:

Eating local honey every day prevents allergies



Fiction.



a spoonful of honey
123RF

It’s true that eating a small amount of something you’re allergic to can make you less sensitive to it - though you should only do so under the guidance of an allergist. Over time, your body can build up an immunity to the allergen. Some people think eating local, unprocessed honey prevents allergies in the same way because the honey contains pollen to which you’re likely exposed on a daily basis. Unfortunately, there’s no way to know exactly what’s in your honey. Furthermore, you’re probably not allergic to the pollen from brightly colored flowers that’s used to make honey. Pollen from weeds, trees and grasses is the more likely culprit.

Killer bees seek out people and animals to kill them



Fiction.



Africanized honey bees (aka “killer bees”) do NOT form large swarms to hunt for people or animals. They sting to defend themselves or their nest. Killer bees are very sensitive to vibrations and can sense pulsations from power equipment (lawn mower, tractor) up to 100 feet away. Stinging attacks occur when the killer bee nest is threatened by the noise or vibration of an intruder.

Jumping into water is a good way to avoid a bee sting



Fiction.



Killer bees can fly above the water’s surface and linger in the area until their attention is pulled away in another direction. Instead, if bees attack, run away as fast as possible. Get indoors or to an air-conditioned vehicle if you can. Do NOT stand and swat at the bees — that only aggravates them and increases your chance for stings. If possible, cover your body and face with a towel or blanket as you run away. Using your shirt to protect your face leaves your torso more vulnerable to stings, but can help protect your face and find an escape route.

A killer bee sting leads to instant death



Fiction.



Human fatalities from killer bee stings are rare. A single bee sting can be fatal if you’re allergic to the honey bee venom; however, most people can withstand 15-25 stings without medical intervention (though consulting your doctor after a bee sting is always advised). Pain, redness and swelling are normal and are not signs of allergic reaction. People with a history of systemic allergic reactions (difficulty breathing, fainting) should carry epinephrine and seek immediate medical treatment for a bee sting of any kind, according to the CDC.

Using tweezers is the best way to remove the bee stinger



Fiction.



close up of bee stinger on finger
123RF

After you’re stung, remove the stingers right away to prevent more venom from being released into your body. But using tweezers or squeezing the stinger with your fingers releases more venom into the wound. Instead, remove the stingers by scraping the area with a fingernail, the edge of a credit card or another item with a dulled edge.

Taping a copper penny over the bee sting relieves the swelling



Fiction.



There are many old wives’ tales about treating bee stings. Unfortunately, there’s no scientific evidence that this folk remedy works. For most bee stings, home first aid treatment is all that’s required. Remover the stinger, wash the affected area with soap and water, and apply ice for 20 minutes once every hour (as needed). Consult your doctor for any additional suggestions to relieve pain or swelling.

If you know you may be allergic or if you experience symptoms other than pain and localized swelling, seek immediate medical treatment. Consult your doctor if you have questions or concerns about bee stings.

It’s illegal to kill honey bees



Fiction.



It’s not illegal to kill bees, but it's frowned upon by the EPA, which is trying to promote the health of honey bees. Unless they are a nuisance and frequently sting your family or pets, bees are beneficial and should be left alone or removed, not killed.

You should destroy a swarm or colony of bees in your yard



Fiction.



bees swarming
123RF

A swarm of bees is usually about the size of a soccer ball and can often be found hanging from a tree limb. These bees are resting in your yard temporarily, typically one to three days, while they look for a new place to live. Generally, if you see a swarm of bees in your yard, it’s best to do nothing. Swarms appear most frequently in the spring (April and May), and they’re not prone to sting unless disturbed.

If the bees start to make combs on the tree limbs, the group is forming a colony. You should NOT destroy the colony either. Handling honey bees without being stung is tricky and should be left to the professionals.

Next > Ouch! The Insect Sting Pain Scale