Insects outnumber us on this earth.
And they always will. By the millions.
Penny Gullan and and Peter Cranston, emeritus professors of entomology at the University of California, Davis, wrote in their textbook, The Insects (Wiley Blackwell) that "Although there are millions of kinds of insects, we do not know exactly (or even approximately) how many. This ignorance of how many organisms we share our planet with is remarkable considering that astronomers have listed, mapped and uniquely identified a comparable diversity of galactic objects. Some estimates...imply that the species richness of insects is so great that, to a near approximation, all organisms can be considered insects."
So it's good to see that when the website,Twisted Sifter, recently chose "The 50 Most Perfectly Timed Photos Ever," three of them were insects.
One insect photo, which they numbered No. 18 (photo by Tustel Ico) depicted a praying mantis on a bicycle. Another, No. 22, showed an unusual bee sting (taken by yours truly) and the third, No. 46, was of a ladybug by Lentilcia on deviantART.
The bee sting photo, which has gone around the world and back, is of Extension apiculturist Eric Mussen of the UC Davis Department of Entomology getting stung in the apiary of the Harry H. Laidlaw Jr. Honey Research Facility. You can see a trail of the bee's abdominal tissue as the bee tries to pull away.
At the time, we were walking through the apiary when he said "Kathy, get your camera ready. The bee's going to sting me." (See Bug Squad entry.) The bee was defending its hive, which is what bees do.
Mussen, with the Department of Entomology since 1976, plans to retire in June of 2014, but like the Energizer bunny, this photo of the bee sting will probably keep on going.
It went from winning a feature photo contest sponsored by the Association for Communication Excellence (ACE), an international association of communicators, educators and information technologists, to being named the Huffington Post's "Most Amazing Photos of 2012"; one of the Sacramento Bee's top 10 news stories of 2012; and My Science Academy's top photos of the year. Along the way, scores of websites named it "Picture of the Day." It also will appear in a number of books.
It's definitely the bee sting felt around the world.
Chris saw it first.
This morning Chris Mussen of Davis contacted his father, Extension apiculturist Eric Mussen of the UC Davis Department of Entomology, and told him that the photo of him being stung by a honey bee made the Sacramento Bee's list of top 15 2012 stories.
Well, a son should recognize his father's wrist anywhere, right?
He told me to get my camera ready. My Nikon D700, equipped with a 105 macro lens and a motor drive), was strapped around my neck, where a camera ought to be.
I caught the image (actually four of them as my camera shoots eight frames a second) and the rest is history. The photo initially won the first-place (gold) award in a feature photo contest sponsored by the international Association for Communication Excellence in Agriculture, Natural Resources, and Life and Human Sciences.
The Sacramento Bee featured it, and later it was selected one of the Huffington Post's most amazing photos of 2012 and "Picture of the Day" on a number of websites.
It depicts a Carniolan bee reared by bee breeder-geneticist Susan Cobey. At the time the image was taken, the bee was defending its hive.
Which is what bees do.
Usually a bee sting results in a clean break, Mussen said. This one shows the bee trailing its abdominal tissue, aka guts.
I earlier wrote about "The Sting" in a Bug Squad blog.
The thing is, people are still saying that I must have spent the day torturing bees to get that shot.
Not true. (Fact is, I've never killed a bee in my life except for the one I stepped on in Hawaii.)
Now folks are jokingly telling me I was torturing Eric Mussen.
Not true, either. He's been stung countless times, and each time, he simply scrapes off the sting with his fingernail.
Which is what beekeepers do.
The folks who devote their entire lives to honey bees--how do they begin?
Well, if you're Eric Mussen, Extension apiculturst at the University of California, Davis, it begins in childhood with a fascination for insects and the walks in the woods with your grandfather, who explains the flora and fauna to you.
Then when you graduate from college and attend graduate school, your mentor makes sure you're stung by a bee before you can join his research team.
M.E.A. "Mea" McNeil tells the story of Eric Mussen in a fascinating two-part series in recent editions of the American Bee Journal.
Honey bee guru Eric Mussen, a fixture in the Department of Entomology since 1976, will do just about anything to help the bees and the beekeeping industry. He fields calls from his Briggs Hall office from commercial beekeepers, small-scale beekeepers, hobbyists, beginning beekeepers, 4-H'ers, pest control advisors, growers, assorted industry representatives, legislators, news media and the general public.
And that's just to name a few. Fact is, he'll answer any question from the simple to the complicated.
One of my favorite photos of Eric Mussen is really of a bee stinging him at the Harry H. Laidlaw Jr. Honey Bee Research Facility at UC Davis. At the time, we were doing a hive check and an irritated bee landed on his wrist.
"It's going to sting me," he said, alerting me to a pending "photo opportunity." He knew my macro lens was ready to go. Eight frames a second.
One of them is below.
I told him he could be my "hit man" any time.
If you want to read more about "the bee guy," check out the news story posted on the UC Davis Department of Entomology website, which links to McNeil's two articles in the American Bee Journal.
Pro bee, all the way.
When some folks think of a honey bee, they immediately think of stings.
Not pollination, not honey, not colony collapse disorder, but stings.
To beekeepers, stings are a minor irritation, or perhaps not an irritation at all. It's just something that happens in an occupation. "It's like grease on a mechanic's hands," says bee breeder-geneticist Susan Cobey, manager of the Harry H. Laidlaw Jr. Honey Bee Facility at the University of California, Davis.
Or, I imagine, like flour on a baker, dirt on a gardener or sweat on an athlete.
Yesterday, when Extension Apiculturist Eric Mussen of the UC Davis Department of Entomology faculty was opening a hive at the UC Davis apiary, a bee landed on his wrist.
"Bee on my wrist," he said, knowing I had my macro lens at the ready.
The bee, defending her hive, did what a good guard does--she stung him. When that happens, you scrape the stinger off with your fingernail so the barbed stinger with its attached venom sac doesn't continue to pump venom.
When a worker bee stings and pulls away from her victim, part of her anatomy pulls away, too. She dies, often within minutes.
What you usually see is only the stinger. Not this time. The camera lens caught the barbed stinger and the stretched tissue.
Ouch! So, you've been stung by a bee.
If you're a beekeeper, an occasional sting is a natural part of beekeeping.
UC Davis apiculturist Eric Mussen says that the average beekeeper may be stung approximately 3000 times a year.
Mussen describes the sting as a “modified egg-laying apparatus,so only females can sting.” The queen bee can sting multiple times, while the female worker bee dies after stinging. Drones, or male bees, cannot sting. (Interesting that Jerry Seinfeld, who played the role of Barry B. Benson in The Bee Movie, could sting! Then again, he was a "pollen jock," too. However, only the worker bees (females) gather nectar and pollen.)
When bees sting, they inject a venom that can be temporarily painful. The pain may last a few minutes but may be felt up to a few days later.
How do you remove the stinging apparatus? “It doesn't matter how you get it out as long as you remove it assoon as possible, within 45 to 60 seconds,” Mussen says. “Otherwise, venom will keep pumping into the body.”
He advises victims to "pull out or scrape off the sting (which some people call a “stinger”) with a fingernail. The sting is barbed. The sting also emits an alarm pheromone that marks the target for additional stings. Leave the area quickly.”
Some advise that you wash the wound and treat it with ice or a cold compress to alleviate the pain. Or, apply an aerosol or cream antihistamine preparation that contains a skin coolant. The important point: don't scratch the itch as that could lead to an infection, Mussen says.
If you're stung on the neck or mouth, or start feeling severe symptoms, you should seek medical attention immediately, he says.
Allergic responses include hives, swelling, nausea, vomiting, abdominal cramps and headaches. Life-threatening reactions—which require immediate medical intervention—include shock, dizziness, difficulty in breathing, unconsciousness, and a laryngeal blockage resulting from swelling in the throat.
“Only about one or two people out of 1000 are allergic or hypersensitive to bee stings,” the UC Davis apiculturist says.
To avoid being stung:
- Don't walk in front of a hive as you're in the bees' flight pattern.
- Wear long pants and a long-sleeved shirt.
- Wear light-colored clothing. Bees are more likely to sting black or red objects.
- Don't wear perfume, cologne or scented soaps.
- Avoid going barefoot.
- Remain calm if you're stung. Don't flail your arms at the bee; movement attracts more stings.
- Remove bees from a swimming pool before entering the pool.