Bees are cool. I really like them and try to plant my gardens in a way that encourages and feeds them.

I absolutely love hearing the buzz of bees in the tagasaste flowers at the moment. They are wonderful little creatures and I appreciate the work that they do.

I like bees. But I’m allergic to their stings.

Bee on mānuka flowers

Growing up, bees were really the only thing I was allergic to. But as I grew into an adult, I kind of wondered if that was even true. My family certainly told me I was, but I didn’t get stung by bees often enough to really know or remember.

Then we moved into a rental in Waipu in 2017. There was a honey processing plant nearby. As a result, I got two stings during our time there. One on my foot, one on my wrist.

Both times, I managed to remove the stinger without injecting myself with the venom. Then I then had to spend the next 24 hours on the couch. If I get stung, I’m useless for a day or so afterwards. The site swells. I’m lethargic, in pain, with a fuzzy brain. Nothing is going to get done.

It was annoying, but I still questioned if there was an actual allergy going on.

Bee on lemon flowers

Then more recently, a neighbour had some bee hives on the property next door. We were out possum hunting one night, and I (as the person holding the spot light) got stung on my wrist. This time I did get a dose of venom and almost immediately broke out in hives for the first time in my working memory.

So. I am definitely allergic to bees on some level.

Antihistamines were my friend that night. No bee sting has ever really threatened my life to date. But here’s the thing: it’s possible for bee allergies to get worse with exposure, and the body’s reaction can be unpredictable.

Just because I was OK last time, doesn’t mean I’ll be OK next time. It doesn’t mean a bee will kill me, but I also can’t dismiss the possibility.

And ultimately, The Outpost is an hour’s drive from the nearest hospital, and 20 minutes from the nearest GP.

Bee on rosemary flowers

Comparatively, in the last year I’ve discovered I’m not allergic to paper wasps. In the course of my work I’ve been stung a few times now. I feel it. It hurts. I always stop to monitor myself and make sure I’m OK, but so far I’m always totally fine.

There’s a little bit of swelling for a few hours, but they don’t affect me anywhere near the same way as bees do. There’s no need to just lie down for 24 hours. It’s quite a big difference compared to a bee sting.

So it seems sensible to at least not tip the odds in the bee’s favour. I’m more than happy to host visiting bees on my flowers, but keeping a hive of bees on the property is just too much risk.

I love honey. Honeycomb is the best. I love bees. And I do wish we could have them. But at best a bee sting ruins my plans for the day. At worst, it has the potential to kill me. So that’s why we don’t keep bees.