They’re tiny and terrifying to some of us. Even for those who aren’t allergic to bee venom, these minature armed flying attackers can cause serious pain along with swelling and the possibility of a future allergic reaction. Here in Los Angeles there is also the possibility when attacked by bees that they’re more than our regular, garden-variety honey- or bumble-bees. There are, most definitely, African or “killer” bees in our vicinity and they have been mating with the local bee population freely, producing a cross-bred variety that is just as deadly.
Suppose, being of the natural health persuasion yourself, you eschew the commercial remedies, sprays, and what-have-you most people recommend to heal beestings? Or what if you aren’t certain about how to remove (or even if you should?) the stinger? Some advocate scraping the stung area with something flat and plastic like a credit card (not much other use for them these days!). Others say smear mud on it (never heard of botulism in soil, right?). Some people even advise taking tweezers and yanking out the stinger, despite the fact such an action will cause it to pump out more venom in the process. However, according to the University of California, Davis (inWasp Stings,” Bee and Pest Notes, Publication 7449, February 1998, produced by IPM Education and Publications, UC Statewide IPM Project, University of California, Davis, CA 95616-8620.), it’s best to remove the stinger as soon as possible to avoid more of the poison entering your body. Preferably, it should be done within the first fifteen seconds of the incident. Next, it is recommended to wash the site and treat it for the pain and swelling.
If you turn out to be in the middle of a serious allergic reaction, waiting to find the correct procedure could cost you your life. (NOTE: If you start to swell up, experience difficulty breathing or other severe reactions, don’t hesitate to call 911.)
Barring any life-threatening situation following a beesting, there are some holistic remedies available. One such is to make a poultice (much like a mush or paste) from the common “weed”, broadleaf plantain, which is ubiquitous in Los Angeles and virtually everywhere. Smear it on the site and if you’re able to, keep it on with a piece of gauze or bandage. This herbal remedy will take down the pain and swelling. Plantain, in fact, is good for relief of most insect bites.
Lavender oil is another tried-and-true remedy; however, take care with the possibility of the oil being too strong for your skin (if it’s delicate or sensitive). A miniscule amount is all needed.
Parsley leaves, crushed and applied as a poultice, are also beneficial, since they are good at neutralizing noxious substances. Garlic cloves, crushed and used similarly, are another source of healing the sting site. Garlic, in fact, is well-known for its inflammatory qualities not to mention nixing the possibility of an infection.
Baking soda, made into a paste with water, will reduce swelling and help relieve pain. Be careful not to make it too thick, or it could cause itching after the fact of the sting.
Eucalyptus leaves, again made into a poultice, have natural analgesic qualities; however, they are not to be used in a strong concentration due to being very powerful.
Willow bark contains natural salicylic acid–an ingredient in aspirin–and can be used externally on the site (used in a poultice or compress derived from an infusion) to reduce both pain and swelling.
All of the above substances can be found easily in the LA region or even in supermarkets and farmers’ markets. Best of all, of course, is to avoid being stung if at all possible. Bees are attracted to perfumes and other scents–especially floral. Bright colors are an added attraction (the same as are flowers). If you are allergic to, or just plain scared of bees, avoid outdoor flower areas. In LA, that means year-round, and may be an unpleasant option, but in addition to carrying an epi-pen with epinephrine in the event you’re stung, it’s a wise precaution.