First Sting of the Season

Dad’s cousin passed away a few years ago from the sting of a wasp or bee. Younger than me, he’d been working on a rooftop in Vernon, B.C., when he was stung. He said to the man with him, “Don’t let me die.”

I was never stung until in my thirties, at a campsite, I moved a bench that had a wasp nest built beneath it. The wasps attacked my bare legs. Over the years since, I’ve had the odd sting, usually without terrible results although once, at my friend Shelly’s, my shin swelled and grew hard and remained that way for some time, enough that Shelly worried about it.

Yesterday I was pulling quackgrass from a flower bed and digging up the row of pink speedwells that I wanted out of the front border when I felt something inside the hood of my bunnyhug, which was pulled up because of the cool breeze. Fearing it was a woodtick, I reached in to brush it off my neck, and saw a dark flash as some larger insect fell toward the ground and disappeared.

giant pencils

Giant pencils at the place I stayed for several days last month.

“Oh! Thanks for not stinging me!” I said to it, before realizing that it had. I’d go into the house and put a mixture of baking soda and water on the spot, I thought, and walked to the Quonset to deposit my trusty horseshoe hoe so Goddamn Dog wouldn’t chew up the wooden handle. With each step the sting hurt a bit more, so I began to hurry. When I reached up to touch the area, I could feel a tiny stinger poking out of my skin.

Could I be allergic to bee stings, like Dad’s cousin was? I wondered, trying not to panic as I hurriedly mixed the soda and water in a small bowl. What if I am, and my neck swells, and soon I can’t breathe?

The stinger came right out in my fingers, the soda poultice immediately quelled the pain, and today there’s just a wee sore lump there. I lived.

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6 thoughts on “First Sting of the Season

  1. In New Brunswick, an Acadian told me this very effective method of disarming the stings of wasps and bees: just bend down, pick up some dirt or mud, and rub it thoroughly against the spot where the sting happened. Repeat later as needed. Really works.

  2. Julie,
    I’ll do that next time; thank you. Right now I’m “dying” of an itchy red swelling that essential oils and herbal blends aren’t vanquishing. Glad it’s nothing worse. – Kate

  3. What an scary way to die for your dad’s cousin. Did he know he was allergic before that?

    Wasps and Yellow Jackets and Hornets are the devils bugs.

  4. Birdie,
    I don’t know if he knew. Also, though we’d hung out a bit together when I was in my late teens and he was a few years younger, we hadn’t been in touch since, but one of us had phoned the other a couple months earlier and we’d caught up with each other. Just in time. -Kate

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