A honey bee that is away from the hive collecting nectar or pollen will rarely sting, except when threatened or manhandled in any way. However if they perceive a threat to the hive they will sting and release pheromones that alert other bees to join in the defense attack.
Depending on an adult’s size and weight, it can take over a 1000 stings to be fatal. With children it is obviously less. When honey bees sting a person, they cannot pull the barbed stinger back out of the skin, leaving behind the stinger, a part of its abdomen and digestive tract, plus muscles and nerves. This massive abdominal rupture kills the honey bee. A lot of people head for water when they are marked by a sting alerting the other honey bees, this is not a good idea, the bees will hover over you waiting for you to resurface and then attack you once more.
What can you do?
The best thing is to run in a straight line for at least one and a half kilometres or until you leave them behind. Or even better, should you have shelter nearby, head for that. Do not stand still as it simply gives the bees more time for the colony to gather and sting, remember a sting given as a perceived threat to the hive marks you, making you a target. And please do avoid other people, or they will simply be marked too. Scrape stings off as soon as you are safe, washing the sting site with soap and water. Apply a topical anti-biotic and consult a medical practitioner. Multiple stings could result in anaphylactic shock. Some of these symptoms can occur within seconds or minutes: dizziness, fainting, rapid or weak pulse, difficulty breathing or swallowing, a dry cough, turning pale, an itchy rash and itching and swelling of the eye area, so seek medical attention immediately.
While bees are a precious and very necessary part of our existence, just like us they can be ferocious when protecting their family. So be wise with your local bees, don’t vandalize hives, or incite them, and don’t try to remove a hive yourself. By respecting their natural instincts, we can all co-exist very happily.