Bees want to be left alone, and in return, they typically leave us alone. Even when you see a swarm of bees out in the wild, they’re usually moving from one hive to another — not chasing after an enemy.
But on rare occasions, such as their home being disturbed, bees can and do attack people. When this happens, you need to know how to react — and what not to do. (Note: This advice concerns what to do when a swarm of bees is coming for you — not what you should do when a single drone buzzes by.)
Don’t just stand there (or try to fight back)
If your first thought is to swat at the bees, you’re wasting precious time. Don’t stand around whacking them, and definitely don’t take the time to find a flyswatter or to take off your shoes. Just get the heck away from them.
Running puts distance between you and the bees, and it lets you get to a safe place like a house or car where you can separate yourself from the murderous swarm. Running should be your absolute, number-one strategy.
Don’t cover your face
It’s true that bees will sometimes target the eyes, nose, and mouth of a person they are attacking. But if you cover your face, you’ll have a hard time seeing where you’re going as you run away. And remember, the most important thing to do is run away.
Don’t jump into water
Bees don’t swim, so a pond or lake might seem safe. But there are accounts of bee attacks getting worse because the attackee sought refuge in a pond. Whenever you come up to take a breath, the bees will attack your face. And, yes, you can inhale bees that can then sting you from the inside.
Don’t play dead
This may work with some animal attacks (grizzly bears who aren’t particularly angry, perhaps) but it is not a good strategy with bees. They will sting you, and they will release a pheromone that gets the other bees to sting you, so playing dead is just asking for more stings.
Remember, your first job is to run. And seek medical attention if you end up getting a large number of stings, if you are allergic to bee stings, or if you begin to notice any signs of an allergic reaction. Calling 911 is not an overreaction to a bee attack; attacks that result in hundreds of stings can be life threatening.
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