Bees are generally benign creatures unless threatened. Alas, no beekeeper, however experienced, well protected or booted and suited, can escape being stung from time to time. There will always be either a stray bee or just one tired bee, heavy with pollen on her way back to the hive that has a misfortune of getting entangled by accident in a human body and cannot escape. Trying to protect herself, she uses her sting. (It is always a she as male drones do not sting, they only impregnate the queen.) Unfortunately she dies in the process. Normally there is a little swelling, some discomfort for a while and life returns to normal after a few hours. Some people use venom as medicine or, in the case of Gwynneth Paltrow, as a substitute for Botox. It takes all kinds.
Unless one has an allergy to bee venom of course (which incidentally is different to wasp venom).
Well, after an exciting but uneventful year of my husband being a new beekeeper, a few bee stings in the space of a few days produced a dramatic change: MJ’s face looked more like that of Homer Simpson than his own and his body was covered in welts. He was quite unwell.
He forced himself to go to the doctor. Blood tests ensued and the results were dramatic. The level of his allergy was deadly, one more sting and he could die.
The bees had to go from the garden. The new found passion would have to end abruptly.
The doctor came up with the solution: she would give MJ regular bee venom injections which hopefully would give him immunity over time. From then, an API pen and anti-histamine became MJ’s constant companions and his doctor became his best friend.
Guy, a local beekeeper, who became MJ’s friend, came to the rescue unprompted. He kindly offered to share his grounds in the mountains to accommodate MJ’s beehives.
Very gradually, month by month, the level of toxicity decreased and I/we could relax just a little. Five long and agonising years later the allergy was gone. Phew! A mosquito bite is now more bothersome than a bee sting. We are still vigilant though and MJ has regular blood tests to ensure that the level of toxicity remains low.
MJ now has up-to 20 hives at any time and is more passionate than ever about his “lady friends” as he calls them.
I should feel jealous…