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Campus Health Service

Bee stingsAs some of us live / work in a nature reserve at NMMU it is only natural that we have lots of bees in our surroundings. Those people that are allergic to bees must be alert at all times!!!! It is estimated that only 1 % of the population have a systemic allergy to bee stings.

General Information

  • Bees have a highly developed social culture, and play an important role in our environment.
  • Bees are the only insects that make food consumed by humans I
  • Africanized honey bees are very defensive bees and it is best to avoid them as far as possible.
  • A honey bee only stings once, then it dies.
  • If disturbed, honey bees will chase you.
  • Honey bees are attracted to dark hair and dark colours.
  • Persons that have had a systemic allergic reaction to an insect sting have a 60% chance of a similar or worse reaction if stung again.
  • Stinging insects are mainly active during summer and early autumn.
  • These insects are most dangerous in the vicinity of their nests. A passer by is viewed as a threat and is often chased out of the area by a sting.

What will happen to me if a bee stings me?

Bee venom contain at least nine different components that cause reactions in those that are stung. Reactions may be immediate (within four hours), or delayed (more than four hours).

If stung, you may react in different ways:

  • Local reaction (Pain, swelling and redness confined to sting site, lasting for 24 hours)
  • Large-local reaction (May include an entire limb, or last longer, but is still adjacent to stings)

Local and large-local reactions are rarely serious.

  • Systemic allergic reaction Hives, generalized itching, generalized swelling, low blood pressure, dizziness, sneezing, tightness of the chest and difficulty in breathing, hoarse voice or swelling of the tongue and anaphylactic shock

Systemic reactions are present and future warning signs

  • Toxic reaction Reaction from venom with multiple stings; fever, weakness, nausea, vomiting, and pain.

Toxic reactions are rarely serious, but may indicate future allergic reactions

What to do if stung

  • Remove stinger as soon as possible
  • Remove stingers in a sideways motion with a fingernail, knife blade, credit card or similar object
  • Apply ice packs to reduce swelling
  • Apply sting-kill ointment
  • Never tweeze or pinch stingers as that will squirt more venom into the body
  • Seek medical attention immediately if symptoms of allergy occur

Tips on how to avoid insect stings

Effective prevention means not attracting bees, and then not frightening them if they are present. Never swat or flail at a flying insect. If need be, gently brush it aside or patiently wait for it to leave. Insect repellant does not work against stinging insects. Do not drink from open beverage cans, as bees are attracted by sweetness and may crawl inside. When eating outdoors, try to keep food covered at all times. Garbage cans should be fitted with tight-fitting lids. Avoid wearing sweet-smelling perfumes, hair sprays, colognes, and deodorants, Avoid wearing bright coloured clothing with flowery patterns.


If known to be allergic, always carry your epinephrine self-administration kit with you!