Most people I know have been stung by a bee at least once in their lives.

And, save for the beekeepers and naturalists out there, most people I know also harbor a strong dislike of bees, if not an outright fear of the menacing creatures.


My grandmother falls in the latter category.

Her fear of bees was primal and intense. I have vivid memories of her as an elderly woman busting out an impressive 100-yard dash across the hot sand to flee from a bee that had meandered beneath her beach umbrella.

Shocking, but not without reason.

On numerous occasions, she recounted the horrifying tale of herself as a young girl, walking across a grassy field while wearing a long, multi-layered skirt, and trespassing across a ground nest, the territorial insects launching an angry attack and becoming trapped inside the folds of her skirt, stinging her hundreds of times.

Fortunately, she was not allergic, but it was enough venom to create a severe and painful reaction, leaving her with a lifelong terror of bees.

Sherri Leimkuhler: Knowing how to battle bee venom

By the time I returned to the car, my calf was swollen and red, the muscle achy, rock hard, and hot to the touch.

I don’t recall the first time I was stung, or how many times in my life I’ve suffered stings, but I can say that a few incidents reign supreme in my memory: stepping on a bumblebee while walking barefoot in the grass; wrapping my fingers around a metal rail — and the bee lurking beneath it — while waiting in line at an amusement park; accidentally sitting on a bumble bee that had flown into the window of a moving car and landed on my seat; and numerous stings encountered while cycling, most notably on the back of the neck and, once, on the top of my head after a bee flew inside my helmet.

I will also never forget seeing a friend get stung in the mouth after taking a swig from a soda can with a bee hiding inside of it.

I rarely drink sodas but, if I do, I never leave the can unattended outside without stuffing a napkin into the opening.

But, until two weeks ago, I had never been stung while running.

Alas, there is a first time for everything.

My daughter and I met another friend from my running group and the three of us set off for a 4-mile trail run. About half way through, I felt a sharp, searing pain on my left calf.

Instinctively, I rolled down the top of my compression sock before realizing that — duh! — whatever had stung me was probably now trapped inside the sock. Quickly, I unrolled the sock and, sure enough, there sat the shiny black-and-yellow culprit.

I flicked it away, but the damage had been done.

I’m not sure how many times the yellow jacket stung me, but the pain was burning and intense, unlike any other sting I’ve experienced before.


Columnist’s note: This is the first column in a two-part series on bee stings.