Sting from bad bug revives painful memories
by David Lazenby
Jul 30, 2010 | 648 views | 0 0 comments | 7 7 recommendations | email to a friend | print
I was reminded how bad a bee sting hurts this week when a wasp as mad as a hornet got me on the ear.

I could have done without the reminder.

Feature articles about apiarists I have read usually included a quote about how beekeepers develop a tolerance to the stings that are an occupational hazard for those who make money from honey.

Having a fresh perspective on the matter, I’m a little leery of this claim. One reason is that it seems most stories I’ve read about these beekeepers report the exact number of stings they have endured. The other reason for my skepticism is my recent reminder of the pain caused by being stung by yellow jackets, hornets and wasps. I imagine a sting from a honeybee doesn’t feel much better.

Personally, I have a handful of distinct memories about my encounters with these bad bugs.

None of these recollections are pleasant, but all of them are vibrant.

Twice I was stung while in a swimming pool. On the same day that my dad took me to see “The Empire Strikes Back” at a theater in Columbus, Ga., I accidentally grabbed a wasp while climbing a ladder out of the deep end. It would not be the last time I accidentally grabbed a bee as a boy.

I managed to keep from crying on that summer day in 1980, but when I told my father about the incident, my voice betrayed me, exposing the inner struggle I was having with the waterworks department.

I also have a distinct memory about the time I learned that a drowned yellow jacket can still sting you if you touch it.

Who hasn’t heard some sage say something to the effect of “If you don’t bother them they won’t bother you” as we swat away a painful pest or do that herky-jerky dance we all do when we can feel the winged critters getting too close for comfort?

I didn’t believe it then, and I certainly didn’t believe it Monday when I felt I was the victim of a fly-by stinging.

However, after analyzing the situation, I realized I may have been perceived as a threat by the weapon-wielding insect when I moved a plant just before the attack.

I also realized I had a hand (literally) in most, if not all of the times I was stung.

While figuring out what I should do about the sting, I remembered the remedy my grandfather Lazenby applied when I got into a mess of hornets while mowing his lawn once. However, I didn’t have any Red Man or other tobacco products handy on Monday.

I did, however, have some baking soda, vinegar and meat tenderizer — all the ingredients needed for another home remedy I used to relieve the pain.

After covering my earlobe with the white paste I’d concocted, a morbid thought crossed my mind as I recalled that some people die from bee stings. My mind led me to remember little Thomas played by Macaulay Culkin in the movie “My Girl.”

On Thursday, I came across an article on the Internet about an amateur apiarist who died in April from a single bee sting on her face. I’m glad I hadn’t read the article before my recent attack.

The sting also made me think about the ways our language pays tribute to the bee with phrases like “the bee’s knee.” I have a childhood memory of wondering what these insects had to do with birds and why I was told that until I got older, the answer to this mystery was none of my beeswax.

I also thought about the urban legend that “killer bees” are migrating here from Africa. This led me to recall what I’ve heard about Colony Collapse Disorder, a new phenomenon that we can only hope turns out be as threatening to humans as the Africanized bees scare that we were buzzing about in the ’80s.

The night after I was stung, Elisha and I discovered that the hornet that had harassed me had a home on our property. We were neighbors — but not for long. Elisha opened up a can whoop-wasp on the nest in the form of Spectracide Wasp & Hornet Killer.

There was one bright side to this week’s sting operation. Providing proof of my optimistic nature, the thought crossed my mind that at least I had fodder for this week’s column.

David Lazenby is the news editor of the Daily Mountain Eagle. He can be reached at 221-2840 or via e-mail at