Honey Bees: A Critical Component of Our Agriculture System

EDM Digest (from American Military University) August 5, 2019

By Dr. Brian Blodgett: Faculty Member, Homeland Security, American Military University

Honey Bee EDM.jpg

To many Americans, the sound of a bee’s buzzing results in a swift swipe of the air to shoo the bee away. Finding a hive of bees in a wall of your house will usually result in a call to an exterminator, rather than to the local beekeeping club to have an apiarist safely remove the hive. 

Bee Stings Are Painful and Could Be Deadly

The fear of bees, or melissophobia, is common, often the result of having been stung as a child. However, some people are so allergic to a bee’s sting, they can have a dangerous reaction such as anaphylaxis that could cause death if not immediately treated.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recently published data showing that hornet, wasp and bee stings were the underlying cause of death for 1,109 individuals between 2000 and 2017. That equates to an average of 62 deaths a year. The lowest number of deaths, 43, occurred in 2001 and the highest number was 89 in 2017. Male victims accounted for approximately 80% of the deaths.

A 2016 report by The Ohio State University stated that an estimated one to two million people in the U.S. are allergic to insect venom. Up to one million individuals visit emergency departments each year. The cost for an emergency room visit varies considerably depending on the severity of the reaction and the patient’s insurance plan.

While honey bee stings can be deadly, the bees will rarely attack you unless you threaten their hive or if they are seriously disturbed outside their nest.

When honey bees are threatened, they take a protective stance and extend their stinger, stinging their victim. Once the stinger punctures the skin, it pumps out venom and alarm pheromones, attracting other bees. If a bee decides to attack someone, it will be its last act because its stinger is left in the skin of its victim. In attempting to fly away, the bee disembowels itself.

The African honey bee, found in the southern areas of the United States, is no deadlier than the other six primary species of honeybees found in the United States. Instead, they are much more sensitive to the alarm pheromone, resulting in a considerably faster response to danger and their clustering in large groups. They will attack nearly anything in sight that is moving; they will pursue a person much farther than the other bee species.

Honey Bees Make a Significant Contribution to Agriculture

While the honey produced by bees is wonderfully useful and healthy, the bees’ contribution to agriculture is much more significant. A single bee in one flight can visit up to 50 or more flowers, pollinating each as it flies along.

If you enjoy fresh fruits such as strawberries, blueberries, cherries, grapefruit and apples, thank the honey bee. If you like broccoli, nuts, cucumbers, onions and asparagus,  thank the honey bee again. While honey bees are not the only pollinators, they are the most well-known and among the most prolific. Honey bees are estimated to support about $20 billion worth of American crop production annually.

Also, consider the importance to wildlife of our flowering plants and fruit trees. Without the bees, our herbivores and frugivores (animals that feed on fruit) would have a much harder time finding food. According to the U.S Department of Agriculture (USDA), pollinators are responsible for one of every three bites of food we eat and they increase our nation’s crop value by more than $15 billion a year.

In fact, honey bees are so important to agriculture, they are often trucked around the country during pollination season to help farmers grow their crops.

Each winter, beekeepers send their hives to California to pollinate the almond trees. Growers rent nearly two million colonies, over 60% of the nation’s domestic bees. The annual cost for renting the bees is about $300 million, but the California almond economy is worth around $11 billion.

Colony Collapse Disorder and the Plight of Domestic Honey Bees

However, bee colonies are dying in large numbers. According to the June 2019 Bee Informed Partnership's survey, “U.S. beekeepers lost nearly 40% of their honeybee colonies last winter — the greatest reported winter hive loss since the partnership started its surveys 13 years ago. The total annual loss was slightly above average.”

According to the survey, there are multiple causes for what has been called “colony collapse disorder.” Those causes include the Varroa destructor mite, decreasing crop diversity, poor beekeeping practices, loss of habitat, the use of certain pesticides on plants and stress.

According to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), colony collapse disorder (CCD) occurs when most of the worker bees in a hive disappear for any of several reasons. That leaves the queen with plenty of food for the unhatched bees, but only a few bees to take care of them.

Since hives cannot sustain themselves without worker bees, the entire colony dies. CCD occurrences have diminished considerably since the winter of 2006-2007 when beekeepers reported losses of 30 to 90 percent of their hives. Nevertheless, the EPA states CCD remains a concern, and scientists are working on several theories for the phenomenon:

Honey bees are being attacked by the small invasive Varroa destructor mites that can destroy an entire colony. Since the introduction of the Varroa destructor in Florida in the mid-1980s, they had spread northward to almost every state by 2017. A study in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS) stated that the “Varroa destructor is the greatest single driver of the global honey bee health decline.”

The use of pesticides is also a concern. The EPA took steps in 2016 to limit the use of sulfoxafor, an insecticide that is highly toxic to bees and other pollination insects. However, just last month the EPA removed many of the restrictions on the use of sulfoxafor.

Farmers can now use the insecticide on about 190 million acres of arable land, nearly twice the size of California. The crops that can be sprayed with sulfoxaor include soybeans, cotton, alfalfa, millet, oats, pineapple, sorghum, tree plantations, citrus, squash and strawberries.

According to an article in Mother Jones, the transportation of honey bees around the nation, their attacks by parasites, the use of insecticides and the vast number of single-crop areas needing pollination are causing stress to the honey bee.

Just as data continue to show the decline of domestic honey bees, the USDA, citing budgetary shortfalls, announced in July that it would no longer fund its National Agriculture Statistics Service to collect data on honey bee colonies. The report helped scientists and farmers determine if honey bee populations were declining and by how much.

Honey Bees and Our Food and Agriculture Sector

The Department of Homeland Security (DHS), under Presidential Policy Directive 21, is responsible for ensuring that our critical infrastructure “must be secure and able to withstand and rapidly recover from all hazards.”

In the 2015 Food and Agriculture Sector-Specific Plan, facilities primary engaged in raising insects, such as bees, fall under DHS purview in the animal production category. A decrease in the number of domestic honey bees can be costly not only for farmers to “rent” them, but also for all Americans because the loss of bees could lead to steeper food prices.

Our nation’s honey bees are not thought of as a target of violent extremists or terrorists. Nevertheless, individuals are attacking them in their hives. In April, someone deliberately set fire to a large number of beehives in Alvin, Texas, just south of Houston. Each hive contained around 30,000 bees. The destruction of the hives resulted in the loss of 500,000 to 600,000 bees.

In January 2018, outside Prunedale, California, over 100 beehives were destroyed when someone knocked over the hives and then sprayed gasoline on them, killing over 200,000 bees. On December 28, 2017, 50 beehives outside Sioux City, Iowa, were destroyed, resulting in approximately 500,000 dead, frozen bees.

DHS needs to recognize the importance and criticality of our nation’s bees and the role they play as a primary contributor to our ecosystem. An attack against bees is an attack against Americans’ wellbeing in general.

Due to our nation’s extreme dependence on honey bees, action is needed to ensure we have enough bees to sustain our crops. There are several steps that we can take to ensure our bee population is not decimated:

  • Ban the use of pesticides that are harmful to bees is a main step

  • Providing shallow sources of water and providing the bees with plenty of bee-friendly flowers, plants and trees

  • Allow leafy vegetables to go to seed after harvest

  • Support local beekeepers by buying their honey

  • Teach children about the importance of bees and the interdependence of living animals

About the Author 

Dr. Brian Blodgett is an alumnus of American Military University who graduated in 2000 with a master of arts in military studies and a concentration in land warfare. He retired from the U.S. Army in 2006 as a Chief Warrant Officer after serving over 20 years, first as an infantryman and then as an intelligence analyst. He is a 2003 graduate of the Joint Military Intelligence College where he earned a master of science in strategic intelligence with a concentration in South Asia. He graduated from Northcentral University in 2008, earning a doctorate in philosophy in business administration with a specialization in homeland security.

Dr. Blodgett has been a part-time faculty member, a full-time faculty member and a program director. He is currently a full-time faculty member in the School of Security and Global Studies and teaches homeland security and security management courses.


Woman Reportedly Dies After Live Bee Sting Acupuncture

Huffington Post     By Mary Papenfuss    March 23, 2018 

She suffered a severe allergic reaction, slipped into a coma and died from multi-organ failure.

A woman in Spain has reportedly died after being stung by a bee during an unusual kind of acupuncture treatment. 

Apitherapy, or “bee therapy,” is an alternative medicine practice that uses products made by honeybees, including bee venom, to treat ailments from arthritis to burns to muscle aches. It’s been touted as a beauty regimen by actress Gwyneth Paltrow and holistic health practitioners, but research has shown there can be health risks in using this type of treatment.

One type of apitherapy ― live bee acupuncture ― was administered to a 55-year-old woman as a treatment for stress and muscle contractions. The procedure involved placing live bees on the patient’s body so could be stung and injected with bee venom.

The woman was treated with live bee stings on a monthly basis for two years and suffered no ill effects, researchers wrote in a case study published in the Journal of Investigational Allergology and Clinical Immunology. However, during her last treatment, she suffered a severe allergic reaction, slipped into a coma and died from multiple organ failure several weeks later.

Previous tolerance to bee stings does not mean later stings carry no risk. In fact, the researchers noted that “repeated exposure to the allergen was found to carry a greater risk of severe allergic reactions.”

The study’s authors said they believe this was the first reported case of death by bee venom apitherapy “due to complications of severe anaphylaxis.” The study did not provide a date for the woman’s death.

A 2015 study of apitherapy published in PLoS One found that nearly 30 percent of patients experienced some kind of negative reaction. Researchers issued warnings against the treatment and suggested better training for practitioners and better emergency care.

“The risks of undergoing apitherapy may exceed the presumed benefits, leading us to conclude that this practice is both unsafe and unadvisable,” the authors stated.

In 2016, Paltrow told The New York Times that she found live bee acupuncture “pretty incredible,” adding: “But man it’s painful.”

Last year, actor Gerard Butler revealed that he went into anaphylactic shock after being injected with the venom of 23 bees during treatment for muscle problems. His apitherapy didn’t involve the use of live bees.


Practitioner's Corner: http://www.jiaci.org/revistas/vol28issue1_6-2.pdf

The American Apitherapy Society's Response to BVT Incident in Spain on their Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/apitherapy.org/?hc_ref=ARTIMrCnyQ36jqRGDD_bgmI5xkvL_lZ1_fdjLKOf-Y9gGBAsv9m6BZ_oZ_R4TSa6HKw&fref=nf

"The AAS is sorry to hear about this unfortunate incident. We recognize that we do not have a complete picture based on the information included in the article but it appears that several aspects are problematic ....


1. Initial reactions to bee venom therapy can occur, and that’s why it's imperative to properly screen patients and ensure they are following recommendations. 
2. Have rescue equipment and an emergency plan in place. Ideally train the provider.
3. One death out of thousands of treatments is very low risk as compared to many standard medical procedures, and far safer statistically than reactions to medication. This particular incident is only one of 2-3 reported in the last decade. 
4. The AAS seeks to promote safe implementation through knowledge and education.

Keep in mind that Apitherapy is defined as the therapeutic use of ALL beehive products to include raw honey, pollen, propolis, royal jelly, beeswax and lastly bee venom. Apitherapy has been effectively and safely used for centuries across the globe.

Best Regards,

Frederique Keller L.Ac
President, American Apitherapy Society Inc."

Mаn Investigаtes If Honeybees Reаlly Hаve To Die When They Sting

Animal Planet Life

Do honey bees reаlly hаve to die when they sting? This video from Аrvin Pierce аbout bees sets out to find out.

The beekeeper explаins thаt if bees sting other insects, they’ll likely survive, but if they sting аn аnimаl with “elаstic skin” (like people), yes, they аre likely to die аs their innаrds аre pulled out when they try to retrieve their stingers.


But there аre exceptions, аs Pierce shows in the video.

Pierce lets the bees sting him аnd, insteаd of swаtting them, he gives them time to get loose. Within 25-30 seconds severаl of the bees mаnаge to retrieve their stinger аnd fly off – surviving the experience!

He explаins thаt stinging is the lаst thing honey bees wаnt to do. They do it аs defense, not аggression. So if you wаnt to sаve а bee’s life “don’t slаp thаt bee, just give them time to get free,” sаys Pierce.

The beekeeper аdmits, thаt no one will probаbly wаnt to wаit the seconds needed for the bees to retrieve their stingers, but it’s а “nice to know”.

Pierce’s key tаke-аwаy is to help people understаnd thаt bees don’t leаve their hive looking for somebody to s t i n g. Their mаin goаl is to seek out food sources аnd bring them bаck to their hive.

But this is аn increаsing chаllenge for honey bees. So Pierce wаnts people to help them by providing а “secure, cleаn environment with heаlthy food sources”.

Thаt sounds like а good ideа for everyone, don’t you think?


(Cautionary note: Make sure if you're working with your bees in areas with Africanized Honey Bees to wear protective clothing.)

Boy Swarmed By Bees Taken To Phoenix Hospital

GilaValleyCentral    By Jon Johnson   February 21, 2017

Child Stung More Than 400 Times

Contributed Photo/Courtesy 3TV/CBS5 News: From left, grandparents Petrea and Kreg Kunz watch over 11-year-old Andrew Kunz at the Phoenix Children's Hospital. Andrew was stung more than 400 times in a killer bee attack Monday.

GRAHAM COUNTY – An 11-year-old boy who was swarmed by likely “killer” Africanized bees early Monday evening is being treated at the Phoenix Children’s Hospital for more than 400 stings.

As of early Tuesday afternoon, Andrew Kunz was still in the pediatric intensive care unit but has had his intubation tube removed and indicated he was hungry, according to his grandmother, Petrea Kunz. She said he is very traumatized by the event, but he is responding well to treatment and they are hopeful he will be transferred to a step-down room later that day or the next. Petrea considers Safford Fire Chief Clark Bingham, who pulled Andrew out of harm’s way, as their savior and that Andrew would have died in that wash if not for his and other first responders’ efforts.  

Contributed Photo/Courtesy Petrea Kunz: Andrew Kunz had to be initially intubated after being stung more than 400 times. He is also allergic to all stinging insects.

Two members of the Graham County Sheriff’s Office, Sgt. Jacob Carpenter and deputy Justin Baughman, along with Bingham were taken to Mt. Graham Regional Medical Center for multiple bee stings they suffered while rescuing Andrew. The first responders were treated and released. Carpenter was reportedly stung approximately 20 times, Bingham was hit 25-30 times, and deputy Baughman was stung about 100 times. The following day, Gila Valley Central caught up with Baughman who said he was no worse for wear. He declined to comment further at that time saying only that he was just doing his job.

Jon Johnson Photo/Gila Valley Central: The beehive was located in this rusted car used as erosion control.

Graham County Dispatch directed first responders to the area of a residence in the 1600 block of Sunset Boulevard at about 5:26 p.m., Monday, after Petrea Kunz called regarding her grandson, Andrew Kunz, being attacked by bees. The area is in between Airport Road and E. Graham Canal Road. 

The danger for Andrew was intensified because he was previously stung more than 90 times by ants when he was in Kindergarten and was found to be allergic to any stinging insect and carried an Epinephrine Auto-Injector (EpiPen) with him.

“He is actually our little miracle guy,” Petrea said. “He is still hurting. They are going to check his eyes. They think they may have been scratched from the stingers, (and) we’re still watching to see if the venom is attacking the red blood cells and if its attacking his muscles.” 

Contributed Photo/Courtesy Petrea Kunz: Andrew Kunz suffered more than 400 bee stings.

Petrea said Andrew yelled for help as he was being attacked but they couldn’t find him. At that point, a 9-year-old boy arrived and said he was with Andrew when they were attacked by bees in a gully in the desert behind the residence.

After calling 911, Petrea said Andrew called her phone and was telling her, “help me, help me. The bees are killing me.”

She then was able to hear the general direction where he was and could see he was having difficulty climbing back up the hill to the residence. Officers then arrived, and Petrea directed them to her grandson, but they could not reach him. Bingham arrived soon after and helped Andrew away from the area.

“Everybody did a great job,” Graham County Sheriff P.J. Allred said.

The bees had taken up residence in an old, rusted out car that was presumably placed in the gully with other vehicles to act as erosion control. It was later learned that the boys had been shooting a BB-gun at the car and the sound of the BBs against the rusted metal is believed to be what set the bees in attack mode.

Jon Johnson/File Photo: Safford Fire Chief
Clark Bingham is being hailed as a hero.

Jon Johnson Photo/Gila Valley Central: The beehive was located in this rusted out old car.

Sgt. Carpenter and deputy Baughman were the first on the scene and spotted Andrew in the gully but were unable to get to him as the bees began to attack them as well. They retreated approximately 150 feet from their previous viewpoint and they and other deputies guided Safford Fire Chief Clark Bingham, who was not in a bee suit, to where the boy was engulfed in bees. Bingham picked up Andrew and tried to get him away from the bees.

Jon Johnson Photo/Gila Valley Central: This bee was located near where the incident took place. There are still numerous bees in the area foraging for food, but they are not swarming.

“He was kind of disoriented and just kind of standing there, (so) I grabbed him by the belt and the arm and we started running down the wash,” Bingham said. “I told him ‘we have to get out of here. Nobody can help us where we are,’ so we tried to climb the hill but he didn’t have the strength to do it, and I couldn’t carry him up it. We continued down the wash until we got to the fire training center.”

It was roughly a 200-yard trek through the desert to E. Graham Canal Road, where the Safford Fire Department Training Center is located. While en route to the road, other firefighters in bees suits arrived and began to battle the bees. Andrew was then loaded into a Lifeline Ambulance and taken to MGRMC.

Jon Johnson Photo/Gila Valley Central: Safford Fire Chief Clark Bingham managed to get Andrew Kunz to the Safford Fire Department Training Center, which just happened to be at then end of the wash where the attack took place.

“What Clark did was exactly what needed to be done to get him (Andrew) away from them,” Petrea said. “Clark Bingham is very much our hero. He was willing to give his life for Andrew’s. That’s the true meaning of a hero.”

After initial treatment, Andrew was intubated and flown to the Phoenix Children’s Hospital. Bingham, Carpenter and Baughman were all treated for bee stings and released. The 9-year-old boy was taken to MGRMC by his family, where he was treated and released. Additional first responders at the scene included the Safford Police Department and a rescue aid team from Freeport McMoRan Inc., which transported Bingham to the hospital.

Bingham said he is also allergic to bees and the last time he was stung he began to swell up pretty bad. This time, the treatment of Benadryl and a steroid at the hospital stopped that from happening.

“I am grateful for that,” he said.

Safford Fire used soapy water on the hive and extinguished as many as they could. The following day, Mark Curley, owner and operator of Rattlesnake Exterminating, went to the site and treated it with chemicals so the bees wouldn’t return. When he arrived, he reportedly saw hundreds of bees still around the hive.

Jon Johnson Photo/Gila Valley Central: Rattlesnake Exterminating went back the next day to make sure the remnants of the hive didn’t restart the colony.

“He just wanted to make sure that he took care of those for those in the neighborhood and the family,” Curley’s wife, Wendi Curley said. “There’s a lot of kids and people up there, so he just wanted to check it and make sure the bees wouldn’t come back.”

Jon Johnson Photo/Gila Valley Central: This different type of bee was found across the street at a residence under renovation.

The unseasonably warm weather has brought the bees out to thrive and Rattlesnake Exterminating has been seeing an increase in calls.

“They’re starting to come out, so be careful.”

The local branch of Sodalicious is doing a fundraiser to help the family with expenses. Petrea said Andrew loves the beverage store and enjoys the Eagle Scout drink. She added that the whole family is grateful for all the well wishers and prayers and credit that for his speedy recovery.

The fundraiser at Sodalicious will be Monday, Feb. 27. The location will donate 10 percent of its sales for the entire day to the Kunz family. Additionally, it will have  firefighter’s boot on the counter for donations, which will all go toward the family, according to manager Hope Maxwell.

“With the way that he is healing, we truly feel the prayers of the community,” Petrea said. “We are so grateful he is alive, again, that’s Clark Bingham. He truly is on a huge pedestal in our family, as a matter of fact, we have decided that he’s part of our family whether he likes it or not.”

What to do if attacked by Africanized honeybees:

1. Run away quickly. Do not stop to help others. However, small children and the disabled may need some assistance.

2. As you are running, pull your shirt up over your head to protect your face, but make sure it does not slow your progress. This will help keep the bees from targeting the sensitive areas around your head and eyes.

3. Do not stop running until you reach shelter, such as a vehicle or building. A few bees may follow you indoors. However, if you run to a well-lit area, the bees will tend to become confused and fly to windows. Do not jump into water. The bees will wait for you to come up for air. If you are trapped for some reason, cover up with blankets, sleeping bags, clothes or whatever else is immediately available.

4. Do not swat at the bees or flail your arms. Bees are attracted to movement, and crushed bees emit a smell that will attract more bees.

5. Once you have reached shelter or have outrun the bees, remove all stingers. When a honeybee stings, it leaves its stinger in the skin. This kills the honeybee so it can’t sting again, but it also means that venom continues to enter the wound for a short time.

6. Do not pull stingers out with tweezers or your fingers. This will only squeeze more venom into the wound. Instead, scrape the stinger out sideways using your fingernail, the edge of a credit card, a dull knife blade or other straight-edged object.

7. If you see someone being attacked by bees, encourage that person to run away or seek shelter. Do not attempt to rescue the person yourself. Call 9-1-1 to report a serious stinging attack. The emergency response personnel in your area have probably been trained to handle bee attacks.

8. If you have been stung more than 15 times or are feeling ill, or if you have any reason to believe you may be allergic to bee stings, seek medical attention immediately. The average person can safely tolerate 10 stings per pound of body weight. This means that although 500 stings can kill a child, the average adult could withstand more than 1,100 stings.

Source: United States Department of Agriculture


[NOTE: You can read more about Africanized Honey Bees on our LACBA Africanized Honey Bee page: /africanized-bees]



Mylan Lauches Cheaper Version of Epipen Alergy Treatment

CATCH THE BUZZ   From Associated Press    December 26, 2016

Drugmaker Mylan has started selling a generic version of its emergency allergy treatment EpiPen at half the price of the branded option, the cost of which drew national scorn and attracted Congressional inquiries.

The launch of Mylan’s long-promised generic alternative is expected to still generate millions of dollars in revenue for the drugmaker while also protecting its market share against current and future competition.

Mylan says it will charge $300 for the generic version of its life-saving injections, which come in a two pack.


Summer Stingers: How to Tell The Difference

My Adventures in Beekeeping (Blog) 

How to tell the difference between bees, wasps, and hornets (and why it matters!)

This time of year, most beekeepers I know are inundated with phone calls and text messages asking, “Are these bees?” or “If there are bees in my shed, will you come and get them?” I absolutely LOVE that homeowners are beginning to question before pulling out the Raid and everytime I get a call or message such as this I get excited, however, many of these are false alarms. So I offer this post, not to criticize anyone for questioning the swarming insects at their BBQ, but to offer some insight because mistaking a wasp for a honeybee, for example, could be dangerous.

Continue reading: https://myadventuresinbeekeeping.wordpress.com/2016/07/09/summer-stingers-how-to-tell-the-difference/

How And Why Honey Bees Make The Ultimate Sacrifice When They Sting You

Forbes/Tech   From Quora    November 16, 2015 

(Ted Aljibe/AFP/Getty Images)

Why do honey bees die after they use their sting? originally appeared on Quora: The best answer to any question.

Answer by Matan Shelomi, Entomologist, Organismic Biologist, and Physiologist, on Quora:

There are four different ways of answering a “why” question in science [See Tinbergen's four questions], and the other answers [in the original Quora thread] all hit on the different answers. So let’s combine everyone’s work:
Mechanistic answer: the honey bee worker’s stinger is barbed, and sticks in human skin. It doesn’t stick in all animals, though; a honey bee could sting a large insect, for example, and pull out her stinger safely. But for humans and other mammals with thick skin, the stinger gets stuck. When the bee tries to escape after stinging, she will inevitably break off her rear end and possibly disembowel herself and die.

Adaptive answer: the stinger is a hollow needle, but attached to it is a venom sack. When a bee stings, she injects venom through the needle. This venom is a nasty cocktail of poisons: chemicals to break down the cell membrane and cause pain, anti-inflammatories to stop blood flow that would otherwise clear out the toxins, histamines that give you the allergic reaction symptoms, and even pheromones that signal to any bees in the vicinity, “We are at war! Come, sister, and sting here too!” The sack is attached to the stinger, so when a bee dies after stinging, her venom sack is often left behind, still pumping poison into your skin. You are stung once, but get multiple doses, so it’s not a total tragedy for the bee.

Ontogenetic answer: did you notice I was only using female pronouns for the bees? That’s intentional, because only female bees can sting; the stinger is a modified ovipositor, or egg-laying tool. Worker bees seem to be born knowing what to do, and sting instinctively. I doubt they know their stinging will be fatal. All that matters is to get rid of whatever is attacking the colony, and stinging works. Since workers do not reproduce on their own, they are giving up their own lives so the queen and any new reproductives can survive to lay eggs in the future. Queen bees can sting too, but their stinger is not barbed and they can actually sting you multiple times without dying. They are not likely to sting the average person, since they rarely leave the hive and usually just sting rival queens coming to usurp the throne (ideally before they have finished their pupation…”Game of Thrones” has nothing on bee politics).

Phylogenetic answer: the gender is important for another reason: female bees are more closely related to their sisters than to their own children. That’s how such altruism evolved: a bee’s genes survive better in her sisters than her kids. This works because bees are “haplodiploid.” What that means is that females have two copies of every chromosome, but males only one. Males are produced by unfertilized eggs. You may have learned that humans have 23 pairs of chromosomes (46 total), and one pair are the sex chromosomes: XX for women, XY for men. A female bee will have 16 pairs of chromosomes (32 total), but the male only one copy (16 total). The female sex chromosomes are XX, but the male is just X.

Here’s where it gets a bit mathematical: a queen’s eggs, like a human’s egg cell, will each contain 50% of her genome (one copy of each chromosome). The queen is thus 50% genetically related to her babies. However, because the male has only one set of chromosomes, his sperm cells will each be 100% of his genome, unlike humans where sperm cells also are 50% of the father’s genome. How related are you to your siblings? 50% of your DNA came from mom, and represents 50% of her DNA. The same for dad. The chance that your sibling got the same DNA from each parent as you did is (50%*50%)+(50%*50%)=0.25+0.25=50%. You are 50% related to your sibling. What about worker bees? 50% of her DNA came from the queen, which represents 50% of her DNA. 50% of her DNA came from the drone, but that represents 100% of his DNA, because he only has one set of chromosomes to give. (50%*50%)+(50%*100%)=0.25+0.5=75%. Worker bees are 75% genetically identical to their sisters, but would only be 50% identical to their children. Thus, it makes evolutionary sense for a worker to forgo reproduction, and even sacrifice her own life, if it helps her sisters. This is called Kin selection.

Read at: http://www.forbes.com/sites/quora/2015/11/16/how-and-why-honey-bees-make-the-ultimate-sacrifice-when-they-sting-you/


84-Year Old Oro Valley Man Stung 2,000 By Bees

AZCentral/ARIZONA    By Jerod MacDonald-Envoy   June 5, 2015

An 84-year-old Oro Valley man was hospitalized after he was stung more than 2,000 times by bees Wednesday evening, authorities said.

Firefighters with the Golder Ranch Fire District arrived to find the man unresponsive and face down on the street after police officers rescued him from his backyard, according to Battalion Chief William Seeley, a spokesman for the Golder Ranch Fire District.

The man was transported to a local hospital where more than 2,000 stingers were removed from his body, including 470 from his arms and head alone, according to Seeley.

The hospital contacted the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which said the man had received two to three times the amount of venom needed to kill him, Seeley said.

Thursday morning 50,000 "extremely aggressive" bees were removed from a shed in the man's backyard, Seeley said.

First responders, as well as the man's neighbor, were stung during the incident as well, according to Seeley.

Seeley did not know the man's current medical status.

Read at and slide-show "How to stay safe around bees"... http://www.azcentral.com/story/news/local/arizona/2015/06/05/84-year-old-man-stung-over-2000-times--bees/28555575/

When a Bee Sting Can Be Sweet!

Bug Squad - Happenings in the Insect World   By Kathy Keatley Garvey   12/4/13

A bee sting can be sweet.

Especially when the result is an auction item.

Take the case of "The Sting," a memorable lunch-hour photo that went viral. Extension apiculturist Eric Mussen and I were walking through the apiary of the Harry H. Laidlaw Jr. Honey Bee Research Facility, UC Davis, when he stopped abruptly.  "Kathy, get your camera ready,"...


Visit the Kathy Keatley Garvey Bug Squad blog at: http://ucanr.org/blogs/bugsquad/

Allergic to Insect Stings: Allergy Shots Decrease Anxiety & Depression



Stinging insects are everywhere making them nearly inescapable. The thought of being stung can cause depression and anxiety for the two million Americans that are allergic to their venom. But according to a study being presented at the American College of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology (ACAAI) Annual Scientific Meeting in Baltimore, Nov. 7-11, allergy shots, also known as immunotherapy, can improve quality of life for these sufferers. Allergy shots are the only allergy treatment known to modify and prevent disease progression, and can be life-saving for those allergic to insect stings. Researchers have found this type of treatment also decreases anxiety and depression in those allergic to wasp, bee and ant stings.

By the Numbers: Insect stings send more than 500,000 Americans to hospital emergency rooms and cause at least 50 known deaths each year. A person who has had an allergic reaction to insect sting has a 60 percent chance of having another similar or worse reaction if stung again. Immunotherapy has been shown to be an astonishing 97 percent effective in preventing future allergy to insect stings.

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That Allergic Reaction to Bee Stings? It's Meant to Protect You

(The following is brought to us by the American Bee Journal.)   10/24/13 

Allergic reactions to bee stings can be damaging or even deadly, but new evidence from two independent studies of mice reported in the Cell Press journal Immunity on October 24th suggest that the immune response to bee venom and other allergens actually evolved and may continue to serve as a protective defense mechanism. Perhaps they aren't just misdirected immune responses after all.

"Our study adds to the argument that allergy evolved to protect us from noxious factors in the environment – it protects us by making us sneeze, cough, vomit, and itch, by inducing a runny nose and tears," said Ruslan Medzhitov of Yale University School of Medicine. "All of these reactions are designed to expel something harmful from the body. They are unpleasant, but they protect by being unpleasant."

"Everyone who ever witnessed or even experienced an anaphylactic reaction to a bee or a wasp sting will wonder why evolution did not get rid of such a potentially deadly immune reaction," added Martin Metz of Charité-Universitätsmedizin Berlin. "We have now shown in mice that the development of IgE antibodies to honeybee venom and also to the venom from a poisonous snake can protect mice to some degree from the toxic effects of the venoms."

It is apparently only when allergic reactions run amok that they cause serious problems.

Metz and his colleague Stephen Galli of Stanford University School of Medicine found that mice injected with amounts of honeybee venom similar to that which could be delivered in one or two stings developed a specific immune response, which subsequently increased their resistance to potentially lethal amounts of venom. The researchers observed a similar protective immune response in the mice following exposure to poisonous snake venom. In both cases, that protective effect was attributed to IgE antibodies, which are produced in response to a broad range of environmental antigens, many of them seemingly harmless.

The common venom ingredient and major allergen in bee venom, PLA2 (phospholipase A2), is an enzyme that wreaks havoc by destroying cellular membranes. In the second study, Medzhitov and his colleagues showed how PLA2 induces the type 2 immune response in exposed mice, to afford the animals later protection against near-lethal doses of damaging enzyme.

It seems as though our bodies might know what they are doing after all. But, if immune reactions to bee stings are advantageous, why then do some people develop anaphylaxis?

"We don't know," Galli said, "but perhaps only certain people, who for genetic or other reasons exhibit especially severe IgE-dependent reactions, are at risk for developing anaphylaxis when stung by bees. This notion is supported by clinical observations showing that only a small fraction of people who have IgE antibodies against honeybee venom develop anaphylaxis upon being stung by a bee."

Related article: http://www.registercitizen.com/general-news/20131024/yale-study-finds-bee-sting-venom-may-bring-immunity-against-the-pain 

The Rise of Deadly Insect Sting Alergies: Is there a Cure?

(The following is brought to us by the American Bee Journal.)  8/1/13

Report suggests venom immunotherapy can make sufferers 'less allergic'

ARLINGTON HEIGHTS, ILL. (August 1, 2013) – If you think summer insects are done setting their sights on ruining your outdoor gathering, think again. August's hot and dry climate is the perfect breeding ground for insects, especially yellow jackets. And for the millions of Americans allergic to insect stings, these late summer bugs can be deadly.

According to a report released today in the August issue of Annals of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology, the scientific journal of the American College of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology (ACAAI), insect sting allergy is increasing, affecting five percent of the population. But what much of the population may not understand is that there is something that can be done about it.

"While it does not always cure insect sting allergy, venom immunotherapy, a form of allergy shots, can almost always prevent severe reactions to stings," said David Golden, MD, article author and ACAAI fellow. "It usually provides long-lasting immunity even after the treatment is stopped."

Even 10 to 20 years after having an allergic reaction from an insect sting, the chance of having another reaction continues to be up to 70 percent in adults and 30 percent in children. Venom immunotherapy doesn't completely eliminate the risk of an allergic reaction to insect stings, noted Dr. Golden, but almost all of the reactions that do occur (five to 10 percent) are mild, with less than two percent chance of a severe reaction while on treatment. Protection takes effect as soon as the full dose is reached, usually within 2 to 3 months of treatment.

"Allergy sufferers who have had an allergic reaction to an insect sting should be under the care of a board-certified allergist," said Dr. Golden. "For those with severe reactions, prescribed emergency epinephrine should always be carried. Sufferers should also talk with their allergist to see if venom immunotherapy is right for them. It's not always a cure, but it is close."

As with other forms of allergy shots, the recommended duration of venom immunotherapy is three to five years. Because relapse can occur, it's best for patients to be regularly tested by an allergist. Venom immunotherapy actually prevents severe reactions, and improves quality of life because people no longer have to fear getting stung.

To reduce the chance of getting stung by late summer insects, the ACAAI advises: 

  • Cover up with pants and long-sleeved shirts when gardening or working outdoors
  • Avoid walking barefoot in the grass
  • Take caution when eating or drinking anything sweet
  • Don't wear sweet smelling perfumes, hairsprays and deodorants when heading outdoors
  • Avoid brightly colored clothing with floral patterns

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Kelley Newsletter - August

The August Issue of the Kelley Newsletter is now available. This month features: 

Wax moths, stings, pollen--it's all part of beekeeping, and it's all covered in the August issue, along with plenty more.

Kelley Newsletter:  August