Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Bee-Happy

Though I have a surprisingly good track record of not crashing my bike, that does not mean I haven't gotten hurt cycling. And for whatever strange reason, the main cause of that hurt has been bees. That's right, bees.

For the record, until 5 years ago I have never had a problem with the stripey, fuzzy, industrious, winged little creatures. They are handsome. They are useful. And they make delicious sweet honey. But no sooner had I put foot to pedal than our relationship soured.

In Spring 2009 I was cycling along the Danube Bike Path outside Vienna, when a whale of a bumble bee flew directly into my face. When our worlds collided, I was going 12mph on an upright bike and it was going full bumblebee speed. It didn't sting me. It sort of bounced off my eye, just beneath the right brow bone. But the impact had such force, that I walked around with a black eye for a week. This was back when I had a 9-5 job, with an office and Important Meetings and everything. Explaining this incident - in English and German and sometimes other languages too - never failed to delight, especially when I had to resort to pantomime. Pedal-pedal-pedal... bzzz... smack, I would gesture. My audience would positively beam with understanding. Aaaaaah, yes-yes, oop-pa!

I submit to you some statistics. Before I began cycling, I'd only been stung by a bee once, maybe twice in my life. Since I began cycling? At least half a dozen times. In fact the number might be closer to 10. The first time was a shock, the second time an annoyance. After that I began to take it in stride. Still, there are a few memorable stings. Like that beautiful spring day on which I first exposed my ankles, donning 3/4 shorts instead of full length tights, only to be stung in one of said ankles, causing a baseball sized swelling. Or that time I first rode to the Fruitlands with Pamela, and, just before reaching the top of the big climb, was stung in the fold between thigh and crotch. Or the time I was stung on the palm of my hand whilst holding the handlebars and wearing cycling gloves. I admit that continuing to hold the bars for the last 20 miles home caused some whimpering.

And then there was yesterday. Just 4 miles into a 40 mile ride, I am bombing (well, okay - proceeding cautiously) downhill, when smack! A bee flies directly into my sunglasses, bouncing off the lower edge of the right lens, then off my cheekbone, before falling to the ground. At first I don't even bother slowing down. But then I realise that the creature managed to actually sting me whilst performing its death throe acrobatics. The pain is sharp, then piercing, then downright unbearable. Finally I pull over and get off the bike. By this time the right side of my face feels like it's going numb. Of all the symptoms I know associated with bee stings, this one surprises me and I calmly wonder whether Something Bad is Happening. I pull out my phone and send a text message to my husband (who has ER experience and is great for quick unsentimental feedback). I try to be precise: "stung by bee below right eye. side face numb. keep riding or seek med help?"

Unfortunately this happens in a spot with poor cell phone reception and I am not able to send the text. Or search for "bee sting, numbness" on the internet. So I decide to keep riding until I find an establishment with a bathroom where I could clean the sting and get a better look at it. This does not take long, as the area is chock full of ice cream shops and lobster shacks placed every 2/3rd of a mile or so along the coastal roads. Despite the morning hour, the nearest lobster place is already open. They have not only a bathroom but also one of those first aid ice packs that doesn't become an ice pack until you activate it. The waitresses observe with interest, elbows on the sink, as I luxuriate in their cool bathroom, washing the sunscreen and sweat and grime off my face, then applying the ice pack to the now-swollen area.

At length the numbness wears off and now only the pain of the sting remains. I reason this means I'm okay and decide to keep riding. Maybe the pain of the sting and the pain of the cycling (I plan to practice standing again - hoping to beat my 1/2 mile at a time record) would cancel each other out. This proves a good strategy and I proceed to have a lovely ride. Later in the day the swelling and pain subside and by the time I go to bed the incident is nearly forgotten.

Alas this morning I open my eyes and discover I cannot open the right one completely. The area beneath it looks like a misshapen tomato. Apparently this is pretty normal for a bee sting under the eye; it can take up to a week for the swelling to go down. Bees!

But you know how the song goes... "when the bee stings/ my favourite things" and all that? So I went on a squinty early morning bike ride and didn't feel so bad. The Advil probably helped too.

58 comments:

  1. 10 times? You must be out of luck...

    Exactly the same thing happened to me a few years ago at the Cape. I don't know what stung me but it was something big. It got caught between the frame of my sunglasses and my face. I got stung very close to my right eye. I had a swollen face for the next couple of days.

    Just use some Benadryl. It will help.

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  2. Well, this photo is cute! Jim Duncan

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    1. Yeah, you don't want to see the Next Day photo.

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    2. I thought the title was not about actual bees, because I saw the title and a picture of you in that cute striped bee-like top...
      I so sorry you got stung! I hope you feel better soon.

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  3. Larry David being abused by Leon. That one.

    Eyeware always.

    Can't feel pain = something in your crotch ready to take root.

    The thing didn't poke stick you in the eye you're fine.

    Again you don't feel pain, what's the dif.

    My wrist hurts nearly every day from a very hard crash years ago. Big deal, totally irrelevant, don't care. Swollen right now. Right ankle snapped, left dislocated - no big. Carry on.

    Only thing that matters - beat your time? Kill that sucka. Long live bees..

    Edit - captcha wants bee...



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  4. Wow! I thought I had it bad but I never got a black eye from an impact with a bee. Not that I haven't been hit in the glasses with any number of unknown insects when bombing (or preceding cautiously) down hills.

    If you ever see me out on the road and stop, pull off my helmet, and brush my head clear of any bees you now know why I do it.

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  5. Ditto - both my son and I react poorly to bee stings, albeit not to the anaphylaxis level. However, I began carrying a few tiny Benadryl tablets in my under seat bag. If I get stung I chew 'em up and hope for the best - they seem to work VERY, very well.

    We have a lot of bees in The Bay Area, wasps too.

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  6. V, there must be some karmic implications to this. Perhaps in a past life you made a living stealing honey or something, and the bee community hasn't ever forgiven you.

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  7. Oral 24-hour antihistamines seem to help, my doctor recommended cetirizine over loratidiene as having slightly more oomph. If your nose starts to swell I think you are supposed to go see a doctor; they don't like it when the air holes are affected.

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  8. My training partner in the 70's was allergic to bee stings. He was stung once on the tongue while descending and was fortunate to be within a short distance to a hospital. He rode directly there for treatment that saved his life.

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  9. Oh boy, here come the bike-animal collision stories!

    While descending the other day, I encountered either a large dragonfly or a hummingbird. It hit my chest (my chest hit it?) in a most significant way, which made me happy that it hadn't hit my face.

    I hit a flying crow a few years ago. Poor thing.

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    1. Bugs, Birds, Bees
      Oh the crow is the finest of these,
      If it weren't for Crows
      as we cyclists knows,
      The road-kill would reach to our knees.

      Absolutely my finest work. Ever.

      Spindizzy

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  10. Are you sure you were stung by bees? Wasps are far more likely to sting than bees and it is very common for people to assume they have been stung by bees. I think there are statistics on this. Wasps can be attracted or insulted by all manner of things and decide to sting. But perhaps you truly are being stung by bees. I have never been stung by a bee, and I hang out with them quite a bit.
    I was stung by a wasp when I was very young and it put the terror in me, but never got stung again for years until I was eating an apple in late summer waiting for a flight, but by then I had made my peace with them. Until.... a few years ago I got stung/attacked badly while walking in the forest as I had left the trail and unwittingly disturbed a nest. Then for whatever reason that fall I got stung over and over at night in late August and early September. In the late summer and early fall wasps start acting crazy, grumpy, and unpredictable. Their venom also becomes much stronger so stings swell up, hurt more etc.. The wasps had a nest that had access to the inside of my house and would fly around at night and decide to sting me. I'd wake up with major swelling, and not know what from the first few times. My foot swelled up like a football before I could finally find a doctor who immediately said wasp sting! And proceeded to explain about them behaving badly in the fall. Anyway, I never left the house without my benadryl cream for a year or two in the summers until the fear left me again.
    This summer in the pacific northwest I have noticed that all the different wasps are acting like it is late summer already and making me nervous. My landlord had finally gotten rid of the big scary nest last summer that was was halfway inside the house because bears were trying to climb up in the hope that it was a bees nest, so I hoped we'd be good this year. Well, last week I awoke around 4 am to a stinging pain and my left eye completely was swollen up. It hurt, stung, itched. I was having surgery that day so could not have any water or medicine and had to try remain calm. I am not allergic, but I do react badly! Irony of irony I went to the hospital for surgery, was surrounded by nurses and doctors, none of whom seemed to even notice my half swollen face! Over the past week the swelling has gone down to reveal a tell tale red itchy bump just below my eye.

    As for biking, I do know what you mean about the hard whack of getting hit by a fast moving bumble bee. Sometimes they get into the bike helmet. Occasionally wasps come along and I do not like that. More bothersome are the small bugs that somehow end up in my mouth or nose and much coughing and choking ensues.
    My advice is to carry some sort of benadryl cream and take note in the future if that's a bee or a wasp about to give you a few hours grief.

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    1. I don't think it's a wasp, because I found the stinger. Could be wrong of course, I'm no expert.

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  11. Sorry about the bee sting. I think you mean death "throes", not throw, and "chock", not chalk.

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  12. Sorry to hear about your sting.
    Worst one I had was when a small bee got stuck in my left nostril, yes nostril, on a tricky descent. Somehow I managed not to crash despite my eyes watering from the sting. My nose swelled to the size and shape of small pear.

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  13. I've yet to be stung by a bee while riding. I was stung thousands of times during my childhood, typically while walking barefoot across clover patches. Got to the point where there was no pain and very little swelling; just a persistent itchiness.

    I have, however, inadvertently slain a couple of rodents on my bike. I struck a muskrat while riding around the pond once; he limped away from the accident, and i hope he survived. Can't really say. I dang-well near decapitated a suicidal squirrel with my road bike about a year ago; I tried tom iss him, but he wouldn't allow it. Maybe I'm due fora bee-sting, karmically speaking.

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  14. Some shampoos and skin creams can attract bees. Try Dr.Martins peppermint soap and (I know disgusting) Noxema original formula. Also, check the ingredients of your sunscreen. There are unscented brands.

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  15. I've had similar problems with bees while cycling -- typically, having them hit me (or being hit by me) and then getting "scooped" down my jersey, or into my helmet vents. I had one get inside my jersey, then started stinging me in my chest and stomach (must not have been a basic honeybee, since it stung more than once). I've started keeping little "blister packs" of benadryl in my seat pack because it seems to help slow or reduce my reaction to the sting effects.

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  16. How long does the Benadryl take to kick in? I bought some this morning and took a dose close to 3 hours ago. No effect so far; still tomato-face and half-shut eye.

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    1. Wow, 3 hours and no effect? I can take a dose and be unconscious in half an hour! Hope you heal soon!

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    2. I took a slightly larger dose later and that made me super jittery, but I can't tell if it's had any effect on the eye at all. Maybe Benadryl is just not for me.

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    3. Benadryl makes me jittery and unable to sleep, too. No one ever believes me when I tell them. It's called a paradoxical reaction.

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    4. Wow, Benadryl is my sleeping pill of choice! Knocks me out instantly - and also works well on those stings. I got stung on my ankle a couple of weeks ago and had to take the little pink pills for a few days. But I managed to offset them with coffee!

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  17. I spend an unreasonable amount of time biking one hand while the other hand flails ineffectually at swarms of gnats. I have nearly run off Shoal Creek Trail doing this.

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    1. Gnats are really annoying. This year I discovered this organic bug repellent that I use as a matter of rule now, after practically getting eaten by them:

      http://www.drvita.com/p-8967-ecosmart-organic-insect-repellent-6-fl-oz.aspx?CAWELAID=1906484151&catargetid=1920410863&cadevice=c&gclid=CLO0l73Q3LgCFcue4AodcUUAkw

      It works great for all biting insects, mosquitoes included. I imagine it would work for bees as well.

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  18. Replies
    1. Yes : )

      Though for the other times, I have no thematic excuse.

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    2. You have another new bike...

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    3. RV - here, have fun. Return it at some point in the future.

      (Rawland collecting dust)

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    4. I saw that in your twitter feed. Congratulations!
      The heart wants, indeed.
      Must be time to rent a bike shed.

      The benadryl should kick in soonish. If not, by the next dose. It's really pretty effective stuff.
      (it was a childhood asthma treatment before inhalers were invented.)

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    5. Ha sort of. It was more about trying it long term to compare characteristics, yadda yadda. But I've been riding it way more than required and so I figured I ought to buy it at this point.

      No shed Corey, but maybe a massive sale.

      I will keep dosing the Benadryl.

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    6. Wow, non-buyers-remorse, redeemed.
      I've seen more pics with this bike in the last 8 months than the Rawland, certainly.

      "No shed Corey, but maybe a massive sale. "

      The Trading Post just got 11k new readers.

      I hope the swelling goes down quickly.

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    7. As far as milage, I've actually ridden them equally (I deliberately tracked this as part of my little project). But I ride the Honey more often, while the Rawland goes on longer haul rides.

      Nothing will be for sale in the trading post, all private and local. There's a lot of bike swapping going on here between people, kind of fun.

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  19. handsome? you think bees are handsome???!!!

    {{shudder}}

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    1. :D

      I think true honeybees are adorable, those fuzzy round back ends and of course the stripes.

      But those elongated-rear-end things resembling bees just creep me out. How dare they wear those adorable stripes? And wasps just look evil to me, color and shape. I always just watch them nervously and wish them not to sting me. So far so good.

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  20. Benadryl can work very quickly. One of my students suffers a major peanut allergy yet accidentally ate a peanut M & M. Her mother gave her four of the little red Benadryl tabs to chew up / swallow while we waited with the epi-pen, just in case. The Benadryl worked, very well. A little patchy skin rash but no difficulty in breathing, etc.

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    1. I'm allergic to Benadryl. Had to go to the ER after taking it. You should have seen the size of my swollen lips.

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  21. Wasp to the tongue, that was the biggest surprise. Teach me to ride with my mouth open, no matter how much I'm gasping for breath.

    This didn't happen on my bike, but it kept me from getting on it for a few days -- I recently took a bumblebee sting, for no apparent reason, right by my ankle. The immediate pain was excruciating, right up there with a hornet sting. But I would have taken that sting every day for a week if in trade I got to avoid the itching, swelling, and painful tissue that followed. Bumblebees: you're on my list.

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  22. Bummer. Makes me wonder if bee stings are random or if there's a reason. My kids were often stung (not on bikes) and i can only recall a couple times (never on a bike) and it certainly wasn't fun. But I've ridden for forty years all over the country and even in farming rich counties where bees are the valued life blood of these orchardists and farmers...still, no stings. Oddly, I've had three birds fly into, and get trapped, in my spokes! I've also run over many critters and reptiles scrambling across the road, catching me off guard, but no bees. Also, brings to mind the story of a friend touring through France in lavender country where swarms of bees were buzzing across the road and fields...no stings.

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  23. I cannot believe this post is literally about bees. Thanks alot, now I can't stop swatting at the air.

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  24. I'm sorry about the bee sting, and hope it is feeling better. On a completely different note, the top you're wearing in the photo is really cute. Please share acquisition details?

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    1. It is this jersey by Cafe du Cycliste, sent to me for review. Not sure yet whether it will appear here or in Bicycling.

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  25. Best photo ever. Somehow mysterious.

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  26. I was first "road Baptised" one August day, riding out a county road near a farm. Before I could react, I saw a black dot spinning toward my head and the next thing I noticed it was a good size beetle that not only collided with my upper lip, but quickly proceeded to go up my nostril. I pulled over, clamped my upper nose shut and began trying to get it out. I really damaged the inner nose skin because it had a hard shell and jagged legs. I hurt and began to swell. I used my water bottle to clean out the rest then pedaled as quickly as I could back to town, about 5-6 mis. I later went to the emergency clinic to get something for the reaction I was having. It hurt for the next two weeks but was more bearable after treatment.

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  27. BEES! Oh My Stars and Garters!, those little wee Bastards can spoil your day like they do it on purpose.

    Wasps are the worst in my experience. Bees know they're making the ultimate sacrifice when they pull the trigger since they're stinger is more like a suicide belt than a defensive weapon(they would rather not, but if they think they gotta', they're shoreshell' gonna), but Wasps and Hornets can just go on merrily stab-stab-stabbing away till they think you've had enough or are dead. I got one in the ear once, Yellow Jacket I believe, and the nasty little fiend got me like 11 times before my brave shrieking and hand flapping drove him away. I swelled up to the point where the lovely German Mother of a friend called me Herr Kartoffellkopf from then on.

    I once saw a cousin take a seldom ridden bike out of a barn and go for a spin only to discover that a Coven of Wasps(it's "Coven" with Wasps, Right? Or is it a "Scourge"? I forget, whatever) had built a nest under the seat. Again, a piercing scream and rapidly going through the hand motions to the Village Peoples "YMCA" while "un-assing" the craft seemed to do the trick, but not before the little bloodsucking Vampires(they suck your blood, right? That's what they do, I'm pretty sure) scored a few good hits. She swelled up too, sorta' Frau Kartoffellbutt to some degree.

    I get stung while riding every few years and while I think I bear up pretty well considering(considering I have the pain tolerance of a six year old, that is), it's never the best part of the day. I once rode over a Yellow Jacket nest in the soft ground beside a trail in the George Washington National Forest and in my panic got to experience "Speaking In Tongues" and "Bicycle Planing" (as defined by Jan Heine) simultaneously for about 10 seconds. The speaking in tongues is sort of an expression of deep emotion in "words" and unconscious emotional utterances that while not "language", convey ones feelings and yearnings in an urgent and surprisingly effective way.
    Planing is just hauling ass in a sort of disassociated, out of body type way. I swear, I couldn't feel the bike under me AT ALL! No memory of any knee pain or muscle fatigue or anything like that. You really need to experience it sometime but you probably never will. Sorry.

    Yep, Bees. Damn the little Fuckers.

    Spindizzy

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  28. Hey !

    I don't know what to call Bee Sting Selfie Pic- It's cool sorry you were in pain.
    Very different from another cool one -
    Back of the Tandem Picture! Awesome fun!

    Feel better!

    vsk

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  29. Every year my family and I do the Covered Bridges in Bucks County, PA. A few years back we stopped at the Bull's Island mid-point/turnaround/rest stop of the 22 mile ride. It was cold and raining and everyone was glad to have a bite. There were a bunch of bees trying to get at the barely covered PB&J sandwiches and one of them succeeded. Sure enough my wife, Gigi, bit into that one sandwich and DAMN if the sandwich didn't bite her right back! The bee stung her on the tongue! Once we determined she wasn't going into shock, she and the kids headed back. I rode another 5.5 miles further and turned around at the 33 mile midpoint then caught up with everyone about a mile from the finish. My wife was pretty ticked that I didn't ride back with her.

    For some reason my youngest daughter is an absolute bee/wasp magnet. By the time she was six she'd been stung more than I have been in 48 years. She has very fair rosy skin and you seem to have fair rosy skin as well. Maybe it's something about your skin tone or body chemistry that attracts bees. Of course it could just be bad luck.

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  30. Last week, a friend and I were riding after dark out in the country near my parents' home, and we had some pretty bright lights with us. My friend had his light mounted on his helmet, and was complaining that the light attracted a lot of bugs, when suddenly there was a big thwacking sound, and a bat, that had probably been going after the bugs, crashed right into his face. He said that he felt pretty lucky that he was wearing glasses, because it basically flew into his left eye.

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  31. Personally, I'd say be careful about lots of physical activity with a venom, even if it's a bee or wasp sting. I was stung by a yellow jacket a few years back and after several days of healing, spent an active day (one with some hormonal flux, of course) then wound up at my doctor's office because of the reaction which was about twice what you're describing. The nurse and receptionist were both asking if I was breathing OK, because they were worried about anaphalaxis. I recommend icing and NOT challenging any of your best times. BTW, that yellow jacket flew in my car window and hit my arm.

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  32. I'm sorry to hear about your unfortunate encounter. I got stung last year about this time and both my eyes were swelled shut by the next morning.

    If you haven't already, an antihistamine will help relieve the swelling and if that doesn't do the trick go to your doctor and ask for a perscription to Prednisone, that cured my swelling problem very quickly.

    Now every summer I keep a Sooth-a-sting and a Benadryl in my saddle bag for just such an emergency. I hope it heals up soon.

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  33. ouch.

    Sometimes I'll see carpenter bees hovering suspended in midair along vine-covered fences abutting a bike lane on a major east-west artery in my town. I've been lucky to see (and miss them) in time. A sting would be painful, but I would grieve more for the bee. Carpenter bees have a reputation for damaging wooden structures, but they also take up residence in trees and logs, are very useful pollinators, and, while lacking the hive mentality of the honey bee, are very community-minded in that they babysit one another's nests.

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  34. funny thing.. I haven't visited your site in some time. The day that I do, I come across this "bee" article. And just today I was riding and a bee flew in my mouth and met his death with the inside of my bottom lip. The little bugger stung my mouth.

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