I did everything exactly wrong.
First, I wore a dark shirt. Most days I wear T shirts, and since yesterday was hot and muggy, I chose one with the thinnest material — which happened to be dark blue. Of course, I had no reason to anticipate what was coming. Have you ever seen a beekeeper’s outfit? No doubt you remember what color it was. Hint: opposite of dark.
Second, I did not immediately identify the insect that was buzzing me. This happened a couple months ago, and then I also did not identify the molester, but that passed with no harm.
Third, I did what most people would do without thinking: I swatted at it with my cap, then with a branch from a bush. I knocked one to the ground and stepped on it. It looked like a honeybee, and there are hives nearby. We’ve walked right by them at times.
When the first sting came, I kept walking. I had the urge to run, but I was with two other people. Gotta keep cool, right (as if swatting at bees with a branch from a bush is cool)?
This morning, over twelve hours later, I awoke with my right eye swollen almost half shut. I might have gotten as many as three stings in the right temple area, definitely my left ear and perhaps another on the neck nearby, and up to three on my left shoulder and back.
So this morning I did some research. When bees start hassling you, they’re telling you to go away, which is a good idea. When you wave your arms around, they take the motion as a threat because they use vision primarily to detect motion. And then —
Once embedded in the skin stingers also release tagging pheromones, potent chemical signals that attract and arouse other bees. When released near a colony, these pheromones can provoke a massive defensive swarm from the females guarding the nest. “The chemical signal says, ‘Here, sisters, here is where I found a chink in the armor of this big attacking predator,’” Schmidt says. “It really arouses them.”1
So more bees will be drawn to sting in the same area as the first stings. And the dark color (bees see red as black btw) reminds bees of dark-furred animals they have evolved to recognize as a threat.
What I should have done:
- worn a white shirt
- not automatically swatted
- gotten the hell out of there
- and, after being stung, gotten the hell out of the as fast as I could
I enjoyed a dollop of local honey (this area is big into bees) in my oatmeal this morning, after getting up early and walking Benji on the beach at 7. I think that will be my dog-walking routine for a while. Once stung, twice shy.
1Summer Safety: How to Avoid Bee-Swarm Attacks.