I’ve never been afraid of bees, hornets, or wasps. My parents always told me, “Don’t bother them and they won’t bother you.” And that advice has held true, until this week, when I was zapped by three yellow jackets as I attempted to park and lock my bike.
As a kid I was stung only once, when I accidentally stepped on a bumble bee while barefoot. I remember feeling a sharp pain, and then looking down at my foot to see a bee hanging off the end of the fourth toe on my left foot. I screamed and screamed, hopping on my right leg, attempting to shake the bee off.
My mom says by the way I was screaming she expected to find me with a missing limb or worse. My brother and sister, who were playing in the distance and couldn’t hear me yelling, thought I was dancing. Dancing? Really?
Hey everyone, have you heard about the latest dance craze? It’s called the Bee Sting, and here’s how to do it…Lift one leg, and begin to wildly flail your arms. Now, hop around in all directions, waving for attention as you scream bloody murder…
I guess it’s no more ridiculous than The Sprinkler:
I’m not entirely unconvinced that bee sting isn’t the reason for my left foot’s mutant toe. The bee stung my fourth toe, which subsequently swelled to twice its size, dwarfing my third toe in comparison. I don’t think my fourth toe ever returned to normal. I swear my toes were all appropriately sized before I stepped on that damn bee.
So, let’s get back to why yellow jackets are assholes.
As I wrote in 12 sustainability goals for 2012, I’m trying to ride my bike more and drive less. To accomplish this goal, I started biking to yoga class, which is less than 2 miles from our house. It’s a nice coast downhill on the way there, and a killer trek uphill on the way home.
On Tuesday, I coasted into the yoga studio parking lot as usual, and placed my bike in the bike rack. As I began to uncoil my bike lock, I noticed a yellow jacket sitting on the cable. I said “What are you doing on there?” in a nice, and I thought, friendly tone. I figured it would simply fly away as I continued to stretch the cable around my bike and the rack, when suddenly… Zap!
It hurt, but not as much as I imagined a wasp sting would hurt. It took me a second to realize what had happened. That asshole, or one of its cronies, stung me on the back of my right hand. And then, two more stings in rapid succession…One on my left middle finger and one on the inside of my right forearm.
“Shit!” I screamed. “Bees!” (I didn’t know they were wasps until later when I did a Google search to identify them.)
I managed to lock my bike and get inside the studio. The pain had subsided, and there were barely any visible marks to show I’d been stung. I admit I was a bit surprised because I normally react quite strongly to bug bites. I told my instructor what had happened, just in case my hands and arm swelled up and I had to leave class. She offered me ice, but I didn’t think it was necessary. I just ran some cold water over the stings and headed in to practice.
The stings didn’t bother me at all for the rest of the day, or for most of Wednesday. I had basically forgotten about the whole incident. I did, however, email the yoga studio to let them know. After thinking about it, I realized the yellow jackets may have been nesting inside the metal tubes of the bike racks, and got pissed off when I jostled them by parking my bike. If that was the case, more customers were likely to get stung, and if one of those customers was allergic to bee stings, it could spell disaster.
On Wednesday evening I was in a meeting when I noticed that my hand and arm were starting to itch. I looked down and saw my hand was swollen and very red. There was also a growing red circle on my left forearm. The sting on my left middle finger was also itchy, but not nearly as red and swollen as the other two sites. It was late, and I was tired, so I just went to bed and figured it would be better in the morning. Nope!
Here’s what my hand looks like this morning:
It’s a little hard to see the swelling, but normally I can see the veins and tendons in the back of my hand. I took some Benadryl at 6 a.m. (and another dose at 10) and held an ice pack on the sting sites for 10-minute intervals. Both did wonders to soothe the irritation. I did a little more searching online and discovered that yellow jackets can leave the stingers embedded in your skin. I thought that was only bees. I can’t see anything visible, but scraped a credit card edge over each of the sites just in case.
I also learned that yellow jackets are known for stinging with very little, if any, provocation. Had I known they were such assholes, I would not have been so nonchalant about continuing to lock my bike in their presence. Thanks a lot, jerks! Big, red, swollen appendages is just the look I was going for this summer.
P.S. I just got an email from the owner of the yoga studio, who has put together a basket of sting-soothing goodies for me. How nice is that? Their landlord has been notified and is taking care of the wasps’ nest, so no one else faces the wrath of the yellow jackets.