PAT NEAL: The sting of bee season

By now, I think we’ve all had it up to here with our seasonal visitors and their in-your-face attitude every time we step outside to engage in outdoor activities. We wish they would just go away.

No, we are not talking about our tourists. There’s nothing we can do about them, even after we put a season on them. No, we are talking about the hordes of stinging insects that seem to be growing in numbers each and every day.

You know the ones.

The bald-faced hornets and yellowjackets that are having the best year they have had in years, which is bad news for the rest of us.

We call them bees even though we know they are not. There’s no honey in a hornet nest.

We yell “Bees!” while being subjected to their highly organized system of extreme revenge carried out by creatures whose intelligence, social order and weapons systems are able to make people run away screaming, while trying to rip off their clothes to dislodge the stinging insects that have burrowed in to strike where the hide is the thinnest.

By then, it is too late. Scientists tell us the hornets produce a pheromone that informs the rest of the nest where to attack the target. So, they do.

This is the best time of year to get attacked by hornets. The nest populations have peaked. The hornets and yellowjackets are getting hungry and desperate, knowing that their chances of surviving the winter are slim to none. They just want to sting something on their way out.

Cutting firewood is one of the best ways to get to know hornets.

The roar of the chainsaw and the smell of exhaust takes one back to a simpler time when loggers ruled the Earth.

Working in the woods, you usually hit underground hornet nests. We give them a good shot of saw gas to settle their nerves and get back to work. You’ve got to be tough to go logging.

Hiking one of our scenic wilderness trails is a good way to get attacked by hornets.

Right about now, they are getting awfully tired of getting waffle-stomped by the hordes of hikers marching down the trail.

We once watched a massive troop of Boy Scouts trundle through a hornet nest. The leading grown-ups made it OK, but by the time the rest of the gang hit the nest, it was a riot that only got worse for the poor stragglers that followed.

My poor dog was attacked by hornets while fetching a stick from the river. Take it from me, there is nothing more friendly than a wet dog covered with hornets.

The various details of the related bee attacks and the related human and brute sufferings are legion.

They are as varied as the treatments people have suggested for dealing with the painful stings which include, but are not limited to, mud, meat tenderizer, baking soda, apple cider vinegar, ice, Windex and not getting stung in the first place.

Not being a doctor, I cannot give out medical advice.

That’s really too bad, because I was almost a doctor except for one small detail, the fourth grade. But I digress.

I use a topical Benadryl solution on bee stings. It seems to work reducing pain, swelling and the infernal itch.

One sharp-eyed reader offered some good advice that is worth sharing. Her hiking buddy was stung about 20 times and had to be rescued by some EMTs, who gave her a shot with an EpiPen and children’s Benadryl.

Be careful out there until the snow flies.


Pat Neal is a Hoh River fishing and rafting guide and “wilderness gossip columnist” whose column appears here every Wednesday.

He can be reached at 360-683-9867 or by email via