Beekeeping Information

Keeping Bees with Honey Bee Allergy

Here is a post I was not hoping to have to write. The entire summer was an uneventful beekeeping season. I made several splits to manage colony sizes which worked perfectly and none of my production colonies swarmed. As is in the past two years, I suffered the occasional bee sting during hive inspections. Most of the stings happened when bees found their way into my protective clothing and some stings went right through my gloves. I never thought much about getting stung, sure it hurts a little, but for the most part the swelling disappeared within a couple of days. However, early in October I got stung while preparing the hives for winter, one lonely bee must have landed on my shoe and walked up my leg (of course under my jeans), I could feel the tingling on my leg and as I tried to shake her out, she got me into my thigh – ouch!

I walked away from the hive and removed the stinger, as I was walking back to continue my prep work I thought to myself, this one really hurt, but I ignored the pain and continued my work. About 10-15 minutes later I felt like I was coming down with an ear infection and shortly after that my arms and neck started itching. I closed up the hive and went into the house, I could not believe what I saw when I took of my protective gear, I had hives all over my body and I quickly realized that I had a full on allergic reaction to that bee sting. My wife rushed me to the doctor and an Epi shot later and after some antihistamine cocktails the swelling and itching slowed down. After keeping bees for three years and having been stung several times each season, could I have just developed a honey bee allergy? Is this the end of my beekeeping carrier? I just managed to build up to 11 hives this year and I was looking forward to adding a few more next year, but what now?

Last week I got tested by an allergy specialist and he confirmed that I am allergic to honey bee venom, it does not happen often, but he said that I am the 4th beekeeper he has seen over the past 10 years who developed a honey bee allergy after keeping bees for a few years.

I love keeping bees and I love the reward of sweet honey and full fruit trees in our yard, giving up beekeeping is not really an option, the hobby just became a little bit more challenging. I am investing in more protective gear to ensure that bees can no longer get into my clothing and I have also recruited my wife to assist me with handling the bees. Fortunately, my health insurance is covering the honey bee venom immunotherapy which I am going to start this month. It is a three-year treatment plan and it will reduce the risk of ever getting another allergic reaction by about 85%. In addition to the immunotherapy I am now always carrying an Epi-Pen with me and solo hive inspections are a thing from the past. I love keeping bees and with enough precautions I am sure that I can keep the hobby going without putting myself in harms way.

Leave a Reply