5 Common Misconceptions About Keeping Bees When You Have Allergies

While people believe many myths about beekeeping, perhaps the most pervasive misconceptions surround the fear of getting stung by the bees. This leads to the belief that people who keep bees, especially if they have stinging insect allergies, are suicidal, stupid, or both. Understanding the truth about sting allergies and the risks of beekeeping may encourage you to take up a fulfilling new hobby. Here are five common misconceptions you should be aware of. 

It is Impossible

Despite public belief, there are plenty of beekeepers that know they suffer from severe sting allergies. These apiarists know the risks and how to handle them instead of shying away from their favorite past time or business. Since a sting is painful enough to get noticed, alert beekeepers immediately know when they need medical help to prevent anaphylactic shock.

Non-Allergic Keepers are Immune

It seems like common sense that a person who was stung with no reaction in the past is safer when keeping bees than a person with a known allergy. Yet the truth is quite different, because non-allergic individuals can quickly develop a life-threatening allergy after repeated exposure in the form of sporadic stings. All beekeepers should take the same precautions and preparations to protect themselves, instead of assuming they are safe because of a lack of allergy history.

There is No Treatment

Being diagnosed with a stinging insect allergy doesn’t mean you’re stuck with it for the rest of your life. Advancements in immune therapy and desensitization mean that even people with life-threatening reactions can slowly eliminate their symptoms with regular injections. You may need five years or more of weekly shots, but you may find the free honey and fresh beeswax well worth the effort and cost.

Safety Equipment will Fail

If you admit a bee allergy when talking to a apiary mentor, you may hear rumors that safety equipment can’t protect you. It’s true that no suit can completely eliminate all chances of a sting, but using the right tools still greatly reduces your chances of reacting to the venom. Create a safe routine whether you know of an allergy or not by investing in

  • A complete beekeeping suit with matching boots, gloves, and hat that seal together around all the edges
  • An epinephrine injector to keep in your pocket to use at the very first signs of a dangerous reaction
  • A medical alert bracelet identifying you as having a sting allergy, even if there’s no proof of one just yet. 

Deaths are Common

With so many allergic beekeepers, you may think that bee allergy deaths must number into the hundreds per year. However, only 40 people died of bee stings in total during 2013, while 51 died of lightning strikes. Experiencing anaphylactic shock isn’t a death sentence if you keep an emergency treatment on hand and work with a buddy who can call for an ambulance when you show signs of allergies.

All Bees Sting Equally

Aside from protecting yourself with extra equipment, you can reduce the risks of working with bees while allergic to their venom by picking a type that rarely or never stings. There are Australian and Mexican varieties that develop no stinger at all, but they are rare and hard to find outside of their native areas. Japanese and German honeybees are easier to find and have earned a reputation for being gentle and less likely to sting during normal beekeeping chores.

Don’t let your allergies or fears about stings keep you from enjoying the bounty of a backyard hive. Tackle your allergies with the help of a specialist to track how your reactions change with routine tests. If you notice an allergy starting to develop, you can take exposure therapy early and head off the biggest risks associated with bee venom reactions.

To learn more about any allergies and how to treat them, you can visit sites like http://www.oakbrookallergists.com