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.
I've been asked how I did it.
How did I manage to capture that rare image of a honey bee sting that won the feature photo award presented June 11 by the international Association for Communication Excellence (ACE)?
The bee is tugging a long strand of abdominal tissue as it tries to pull away. Most stings are a clean break. In fact, every bee sting I've ever had--about 15 or so--was a clean break.
Well, it all started at the Harry H. Laidlaw Jr. Honey Bee Research Facility, University of California, Davis.
It was the lunch hour. Extension apiculturist Eric Mussen, with UC Davis Department of Entomology, and I were checking out a hive when he casually said: "Kathy, get your camera ready. This bee is about to sting me."
I removed the lens cap and aimed my camera at the bee. The bee was NOT about to sting him--the bee WAS stinging him.
I shot four photos within a second. My camera can shoot as fast as eight frames a second. Settings: 640 ISO, 1/250 of a second, aperture of 13. Camera: Nikon D700, equipped with a motor drive and a 105mm macro lens.
For educational purposes, I posted the second photo of the sequence on the web. That's why I shoot: educational purposes. Soon people from all over the world were downloading it and using the photo (unauthorized) to sell medical products and the like. One person in Iraq even put his copyright on it.
Well, I thought, it must be an okay photo if folks are lifting it!
I entered "The Sting" in the 2012 feature-photo competition sponsored by ACE, a professional organization comprised of communicators, educators and information technologists in agriculture, natural resources, and life and human sciences.
To my surprise, it won the gold award in the feature category and then the Outstanding Professional Skill Award in Photography.
Mussen wrote about the awards in his newsletter, from the UC Apiaries. (And mentioned the other gold award, for best news writing.)
So, here I am today fielding questions about the photo after it appeared yesterday in the news media. "Amazing!" was the general consensus. However, two persons expressed outrage. One accused me of animal cruelty. Not so. The bee sting was unexpected; it was neither planned nor posed. In fact, I work on several fronts to help save the declining bee population, even going so far as rescuing bees from the pool and offering them a sip of honey.
One person thought I should have put the (insert colorful adjective here) camera down and helped "the poor guy getting stung."
Actually, the "poor guy" was the one who asked me to take the photo!
What most people don't realize is that getting stung by a bee is no big deal to beekeepers. It happens thousands of times throughout the country every single day. Sting? Yawn. So what else is new? Got any plans for the weekend?
What's good about this whole thing is that bee scientists can use the sting photo as an educational tool. Just got a call from one of them...
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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.