Have you ever been stung by a bee?
Not a big deal eh? … Unless you happen to be allergic to them and more of that later, but for those of us who live in Brazil, there are bees and then there are bees…and also wasps!
Since coming here to live there have been many who have warned me to take care of the snakes, and even more who have displayed great fear of the spiders and even some who will not set foot in Brazil unless they are guaranteed a spider free visit!

I have often asked the people that I meet if they have ever been bitten by a snake, or know of anyone who has. I know of no one who has suffered a snake bite and only a handful who have known someone who has been bitten. According to sources who publish figures on the internet, some 70 people die each year from snake bite in Brazil. These are mainly agricultural workers cropping banana and sugar cane, prey to an occupational hazard.

Spiders are a different matter. They are most likely to cause a problem in our autumn season, from April through May, when they come indoors to seek a hibernation nest to lay their eggs. They can be anywhere. Always check your shoes and clothes before using them. I have been bitten by a spider and it is a common occurrence especially if you live in a rural area and work outside without gloves. You can get quite a nasty bite, but you would be extremely unlucky to need medical attention.

Bees, on the other hand are “muito perigoso”!

The trouble is that there are so many of them and you can easily fall victim to a sting in any location. In rural areas their nests are formed in the summer months during December, January, February and March, but unlike European bees, they often build their nests on the back of the leaves of ground plants where people pass. The unsuspecting person on foot on a rural trail can easily brush against the leaf bearing a bee’s nest and will be surrounded within seconds by an aerial mob of angry bees intent on protecting their home. Stings are delivered on all areas of exposed flesh and the pain is enough to drive you away from the spot flailing against the multiple assailants and wishing that you had chosen a different route. Thankfully these “Abelha Preta” , are quite small and their sting, although not be sneezed at, is soon tolerable.

Wasps, (Maribondos), however, deliver a sting that is extremely painful and multiple stings will incapacitate a victim for several hours. Like the black bees, they often build nests where folk are likely to pass by and they attack without mercy. I have been stung on several occasions by Maribondos and can testify to the excruciating pain that they case and to the disorientating effect of an attack. I had the good fortune to be close to my house where I could seek refuge and administer vinegar to the stings in order to obtain some relief.

Now that you are suitably cowed, and alerted to some of the common dangers to be encountered by the unsuspecting rambler in Brazil, we enter into the domain of the deadly “Abelha Africana”, or African bee.

Some clever so and so had a brilliant idea, sometime ago, to create a super race of South American bees, that would make him rich. He imported bees from Africa which had a prodigious capacity for making honey, and crossed them with the native black bees. The result was an insect that reproduced rapidly, could fend for itself in the wild, and made huge amounts of honey. Unfortunately it also turned out to be viciously aggressive and in possession of a sting that delivers sufficient venom to kill an adult horse, let alone a human being!

Now I can just about hear someone saying;…”Alastair, stop spooking the tourists!”
“Most of them won’t even go anywhere near a bee’s nest and will never set foot in the jungle without a guide to bear the brunt of whatever creepy crawly lurks unseen.”

Listen up then you Football Fans here for the World Cup and those to come for the Olympics in two years time…..

I have just got back home with my girlfriend from our town Emergency Hospital.
Earlier this afternoon she was in town, at a bar. She was just across the road from where I was downloading music from the internet. She was quietly drinking a glass of a popular soft drink, called Guarana , when unknown to her, an African bee entered her glass to take on board a load of sugar for honey making. She took another sip and the bee struck the inside of her upper lip. Within seconds she was in an anaphilatic shock and luckily managed to stagger to where I was, and of course, I immediately took her to hospital. She received emergency treatment, including several anti allergic injections, oxygen to assist her difficulty in breathing, a drip to alleviate shock and close observation until she began to show signs of recovery. This was all from a single bite. Imagine what many bites could have caused!

Three hours later she was released for convalescence and told to be very careful of the bees.

Very good advice, I would call it..